Taiwan is bracing for more Chinese military patrols next year, after incursions by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) more than doubled this year, fueling concern about a clash between the region’s big powers.
Since January, Chinese warplanes have made about 950 forays into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), Ministry of National Defense data showed, up from about 380 sorties last year, when the ministry began releasing the data amid a sharp rise in such flights.
Tensions could rise further in the coming year, with key events on the political calendars for Taipei and Beijing. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is facing local elections viewed as a bellwether for the next presidential race, while Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is heading toward a party congress in which he is expected to secure a precedent-busting third term in power.
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of National Defense
“China will send more military airplanes into Taiwan’s ADIZ next year with more intimidating operations,” said Kuo Yu-jen (郭育仁), director of the Institute for National Policy Research. “The situation in 2022 is worth being concerned about as it’s going to be a turning point.”
The political events increase pressure on Tsai and Xi to show strength and the resolve to respond to perceived provocations.
US President Joe Biden, who has affirmed the US’ commitment to defend Taiwan from any Chinese attack, also has a political incentive to maintain a firm line toward Beijing before congressional mid-term elections.
Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) told lawmakers in October that the closer Chinese planes came to Taiwan, “the stronger we will hit back.”
“China’s quasi-military means are part of its gray-zone tactic to intimidate and coerce Taiwan — it’s a hybrid threat,” said Ou Si-fu (歐錫富), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, citing other efforts including luring Taiwan’s diplomatic allies away and economic coercion.
“China’s activities in the Strait will increase as its competition with the US intensifies,” Ou added.
The military can handle next year’s expected increase in PLA incursions, Chiu told reporters yesterday during a break in a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee in Taipei.
The armed forces maintain the combat readiness of personnel and equipment at all times with the expectation that the enemy is capable and strong, Chiu said.
On Tuesday, Biden signed the fiscal 2022 US National Defense Authorization Act, which includes provisions recommending that Taiwan be included in next year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercise.
Asked to comment on the act, Chiu said that Taiwan welcomes any aid from foreign governments, but the country’s existing capabilities must be considered before defense cooperation is strengthened.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Chin
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