China Sends Record 103 Warplanes Toward Taiwan in 24 Hours

China's military sent a massive 103 warplanes towards Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over a 24-hour period starting 6 am Sunday.

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China sends 103 military planes toward Taiwan, escalating tensions labeled as harassment.

Soldiers gather for group photos with a Taiwanese flag after a readiness exercise simulating defense against Beijing's military actions in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, on January 11, 2023. Taiwan reported a new daily high in recent times as 103 Chinese warplanes approached the island. Taiwan's Defense Ministry detected these planes in the 24-hour period ending at 6 a.m. on Monday, September 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Daniel Ceng, File)

China's military sent a massive 103 warplanes towards Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over a 24-hour period starting 6 am Sunday, in what Taiwan's defense ministry called a new daily record. The planes were detected between 6 am Sunday and 6 am Monday, before turning back prior to entering Taiwanese airspace, in keeping with standard practice.

The provocative maneuvers amid rising cross-strait and US-China tensions over Taiwan reflect Beijing’s strategy of conducting increasingly forceful military drills around the island to pressure Taipei. The US remains Taiwan's main arms supplier and opposes any attempt to change its status by force.

Significantly, Taiwan's defense ministry stated 40 of the Chinese aircraft crossed the median line, an unofficial but important buffer delineating the Taiwan Strait. Chinese naval activities near Taiwan also remain pronounced, with 9 naval vessels detected over the past 24 hours.

Taiwan denounced China's actions as "harassment" that could escalate tensions. It urged Beijing to cease such destabilizing military activities. Last week, China sent an aircraft carrier battlegroup near Taiwan and held expansive drills after the US and Canada sailed warships through the strait.

China’s ‘Carrot and Stick’ Strategy Towards Taiwan

The latest military posturing coincides with China unveiling plans for an integrated demonstration zone in Fujian province to deepen ties with Taiwan through trade and tourism. This represents Beijing’s long-running carrot and stick approach alternating coercion with inducements to shape Taiwanese choices and dissuade moves towards independence.

With Taiwanese presidential polls upcoming in January 2024, the amplified pressure seeks to swing the vote against the ruling DPP party that favors formal independence and towards Beijing-friendly opposition candidates advocating closer cross-strait engagement.

Background on China-Taiwan Divide

Taiwan and China split in 1949 following the communist victory in the Chinese civil war, as defeated Nationalists retreated to Taiwan and established a separate government. Taiwan has since evolved into a thriving democracy and major global economy.

However, China still claims Taiwan as its own territory under its "one China" policy. Taiwan remains self-governing but only 15 states recognize it officially, as most nations including the US maintain formal ties with Beijing instead while retaining substantive unofficial relations with Taipei.

Drivers Behind China's Escalatory Military Activities

Several key factors are driving China's aggressiveness around Taiwan:

Deterring Taiwan Independence Moves

Beijing seeks to deter potential moves by Taipei towards de jure independence, which it treats as a redline. China enacted an anti-secession law in 2005 authorizing force if peaceful unification is no longer possible.

Signaling Resolve

The shows of force signal China's resolve and military capabilities to deter Taiwan from perceiving weakness. It also conveys Beijing's willingness to bear costs and risks to defend core interests.

Coercive Diplomacy

Military activities augment coercive diplomacy to pressure Taiwan's leadership and society psychologically. Beijing likely hopes sustained coercion can erode resistance and force concessions.

'Gray Zone' Warfare

Frequent air and naval operations normalize Chinese military presence around Taiwan and help Beijing gain asymmetric escalation dominance. It enhances 'gray zone' warfare capabilities short of open conflict.

Shaping US Calculus

Displaying capability to overwhelm Taiwanese defenses signals potential cost of US intervention. China likely hopes this will deter US support for Taiwan.

Rallying Nationalism

The projection of military power boosts nationalist narratives of defending China's sovereignty and territorial integrity domestically. This bolsters legitimacy.

Escalatory Risks and Challenges for Crisis Management

However, experts warn China's assertive military activities pose serious risks:

  • Miscalculation leading to accidental conflict remains a persistent danger, especially with proximity of rival forces.
  • Taiwan may feel compelled to react militarily, triggering escalation.
  • Political dynamics constrain de-escalation options for leaders on both sides.
  • Repeated mobilizations are financially and militarily taxing for China.
  • Regional anxiety and backlash against China's aggression may grow.
  • US deterrence could be undermined if massive shows of force become routine.

A key challenge is developing crisis management mechanisms and risk reduction measures between Beijing, Taipei and Washington to prevent miscalculations and stabilize deterrence. But compromise remains elusive amid hardening attitudes.

US Strategic Ambiguity Under Strain

China's rising pressure on Taiwan also exposes growing limitations of Washington's 'strategic ambiguity' on whether it would militarily defend Taiwan. While intended to discourage unilateral changes by both sides, this policy risks emboldening Chinese coercion and deterrence of Taiwan.

Calls are mounting for some clarity on possible US redlines and involvement in a cross-strait conflict. But signaling resolve too forcefully also brings dangers of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maintaining stability hinges on carefully calibrated deterrence amid strategic uncertainty.

Future Trajectory
Absent a major change in either side's positions, military brinkmanship around Taiwan may intensify as China's power grows relative to the US and Taiwan. But the costs and risks will also compound for all parties. Preventing tensions from boiling over into open warfare will necessitate some judicious combination of military posturing, economic interdependence and political dialogue.

Taiwan's democracy and identity have flourished but remain overshadowed by Chinese ambitions. How the Taiwan issue evolves will be a key global security flashpoint. But with pragmatism and foresight, this need not become the fuse for a great power clash. A more cooperative equilibrium preserving Taiwan's autonomy while respecting China's interests is still possible, however challenging.

Summarised form the original article by -

World NewsChinaPeoples Republic of ChinaChina Taiwan DisputeChina Taiwan ConflictTaiwan ConflictSouth East AsiaSouth China Sea

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