The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has restarted military maneuvers around Taiwan in response to the visit of a delegation of US lawmakers led by US Senator Ed Markey, who arrived in Taiwan on Sunday. Having failed to intimidate Taiwanese with its response to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit earlier this month, Beijing is having another go at it.
On Sunday, the PLA deployed 22 warplanes and six warships in areas around Taiwan, with 10 aircraft crossing the Taiwan Strait median line to coincide with the delegation’s arrival. Monday saw a slight increase in aircraft sorties, with the Ministry of National Defense detecting five PLA Navy vessels in waters around Taiwan and 30 aircraft, 15 of which traversed the median line.
The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command on Monday released a propaganda video that showed footage of Penghu County, purportedly taken by a PLA fighter jet that flew close to the outlying islands that day.
Rebutting that claim, a spokesperson for the air force labeled the video information warfare, saying: “The foreshortening effect obtained through the use of an ultra-long telephoto lens, combined with good visibility on the day, gives the impression that the islands are much nearer than they actually were.”
It is not the first time that the PLA has been caught using exaggerated claims, doctored images or fake footage as information warfare. After then-US secretary of health and human services Alex Azar visited Taiwan in August 2020, the PLA released a propaganda video depicting a fictional bombing raid on the US military’s Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The video included segments from two Hollywood action films: 2008’s The Hurt Locker and 1996’s The Rock.
Pelosi’s visit saw false reports of PLA aircraft crossing the Taiwan Strait and a missile attack on Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport circulating on the Internet.
What Beijing fails to comprehend is that the more it ratchets up each of the battlespaces — conventional, cyber, information and psychological — the more it stiffens the resolve of ordinary Taiwanese, and strengthens the case for independence. Each time Beijing holds high-profile military exercises, firing ballistic missiles in ever-closer proximity to Taiwan or saturates the information space with jingoistic military propaganda and video footage of warships and military aircraft encircling Taiwan, they signal to ever greater numbers of Taiwanese that China is an implacable enemy with designs on their homeland.
Ostentatious displays of military might and in-your-face propaganda is the polar opposite of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) policy of unification by stealth. That meant carrying out a low-key, nonthreatening military buildup that could be explained away as commensurate with China’s increased standing in the world, while simultaneously using soft power as a centripetal force to pull Taiwan economically and culturally into the orbit of the Middle Kingdom.
Soon after assuming power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rashly dispensed with Deng’s covert strategy, believing that China was already powerful enough to begin throwing its weight around. Xi has shown his hand too early. Having telegraphed to the entire world his intentions on Taiwan years before the PLA is capable of launching an invasion, he has now made matters worse by spelling out exactly how the PLA would conduct a blockade or amphibious invasion, revealing tactics and operational procedures, and providing the militaries of Taiwan and the US with a treasure trove of electronic information, which can be analyzed and used to better defend against PLA weapons systems.
It has been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
The more Beijing steps up military coercion against Taiwan, the more it shoots itself in the foot. It is the definition of insanity.
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