China’s People’s Liberation Army is continuing live-fire military exercises in the waters around Taiwan for the sixth-straight day.
The exercises are a very visible illustration of China’s apparent fury over last week’s visit to the island by a congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said China’s anger over Pelosi’s visit was simply a pretext for China to launch military drills to help prepare for a future invasion.
“Whether Speaker Pelosi visit(ed) Taiwan or not, the Chinese military threat has always been there,” Wu told CNN.
Wu said that while Taiwan was more resilient than in the past he was concerned by China’s bellicose behavior.
“I worry that China may really launch a war against Taiwan,” said Wu. “But what it is doing right now is to try to scare us. And the best way to deal with it is to show to China that we are not scared.”
Johnson Chiang is director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago, Taiwan’s de facto consul in the city.
In an interview with WTTW News, Chiang said that as China’s military and economic power has grown in recent decades, their behavior toward Taiwan has become more aggressive.
“I think China now, they think they are much stronger,” said Chiang. “They think they’re bigger now compared to 20 years ago. So their approach is either my way or highway.”
Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, who later this year will seek — and almost certainly get — a third term as leader, Chiang says China has become “more aggressive abroad and more oppressive at home.”
“They think that using force is an option on the table,” said Chiang.
But with some 50% of global cargo ships going through the Taiwan Strait or the waters around Taiwan, as well as Western and Taiwanese investment in China, Chiang says there is a deep economic interdependence between China, Taiwan and the United States. That’s why he says the fundamental goal of both Taiwanese and American policy is to maintain the status quo – and why China’s current military exercises that are effectively imposing a blockade on Taiwan “are self-defeating.”
“We think the military drills over Taiwan is over-reacting, unnecessary and provocative,” said Chiang.
And with a pandemic-hit economy, China’s leadership in Beijing may also be wary of what sanctions the west may impose should it launch an attack.
“I think it’s very important that we keep in mind that stability matters not only to Taiwan but also to China as well,” said Chiang.
And the current war of attrition in Ukraine, and the crippling economic sanctions being imposed on Russia by western powers, has Beijing’s attention.
“I do believe they are watching the Ukraine situation very closely,” said Chiang.
Ultimately, the escalating tensions between China and Taiwan are a result of differing views over who should determine the island’s future.
“Obviously, we have different views about how peoples’ lives should be governed. That’s the fundamental question we face,” said Chiang. “We think democracy is better for our people. And across the Taiwan Strait they don’t think so.”