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
BLUE WAVE: The KMT’s Chiang Wan-an defeated the DPP’s Chen Shih-chung and is to become Taipei mayor, while President Tsai Ing-wen stepped down as DPP chairperson after many of the party’s candidates, handpicked by the leadership, performed poorly The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday flipped key mayoral seats in Taipei, Taoyuan and Keelung, and won control of 13 out of 22 cities and counties in the nine-in-one local elections. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) last night resigned as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson over a poor showing by the party’s candidates, who were handpicked by the DPP leadership rather than chosen through primaries. The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) won its first high-profile race with Hsinchu mayoral candidate Ann Kao (高虹安) defeating Shen Hui-hung (沈慧虹) of the DPP with 45.02 percent of the vote to Shen’s 35.68 percent. Voters were choosing more than
CAUTION: Wearing a mask in crowded places and for people with chronic illnesses or allergies can help prevent COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, the CECC said The mask mandate for outdoor settings is to lifted on Thursday, and the weekly cap on international inbound travelers is to be removed on Dec. 10, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said at its regular news conference yesterday. The center also announced that starting from Friday, children aged five to 11 can receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster, and that rules for visiting hospital patients are to be partially eased from Dec. 10. While wearing a mask will no longer be mandatory outdoors, Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Victor Wang (王必勝) reminded the public that it would still be required
ANALYSIS: The local elections showed that the KMT is a competitive player, but needs to work at changing its image regarding China, experts said The nine-in-one local election results would bolster the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), but are unlikely to have a major effect on the 2024 presidential election, when cross-strait issues are back in focus, political commentators said. In Saturday’s elections, the KMT won 13 of the 21 cities and counties up for grabs, including four of the country’s six biggest metropolitan areas, where nearly 70 percent of the population lives. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost three of the seven cities and counties it held, although it gained Penghu County. Its poor results prompted President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to announce her resignation as party
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: China might impose a blockade, conduct limited force operations, use an air and missile campaign, or resort to an invasion, the report said The US Department of Defense has identified four possible military courses of action that China could take against Taiwan, but did not offer any guess on when Beijing might be ready to act. In an annual report to the US Congress released on Tuesday titled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2022, the department gave a broad overview of China’s military capabilities, strategy, ambitions and intentions. The report devoted significant space to developments related to Taiwan, against which it said China had intensified diplomatic, economic, political and military pressure last year. For example, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA)