Chinese Military Rehearses Encirclement, Bombardment of Taiwan as Western Deterrence Erodes
Chinese fighters and warships deployed all around Taiwan over the weekend, during a three-day war game dubbed Operation “Joint Sword.” The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) deployed to the north, south, east, and west of the independent island nation, only hours after French President Emmanuel Macron left Chinese airspace.
China Central Television (CCTV), a media outlet controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), proclaimed that the drills had “simulated joint precision strikes against key targets on Taiwan island and surrounding waters.” CCTV added that dozens of aircraft deployed to “fly into the target airspace,” and Chinese forces “continued to maintain the situation of closely encircling the island.”
The Taiwanese defense ministry said it detected 11 Chinese warships and 70 aircraft early Sunday morning, with 35 aircraft entering Taiwanese airspace.
The Chinese deployments around Taiwan come only days after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R) met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Simi Valley, California on Wednesday. Beijing had threatened “strong and resolute measures” if McCarthy went ahead with the meeting. Communist China views Taiwan as a breakaway province with no right to exist as a separate nation, and the “reunification” of the island is a top objective of Chinese foreign policy. Chinese forces last deployed in aggressive exercises around Taiwan in August, after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) visited the island.
“I am fearful that China may be setting conditions to blockade Taiwan in the coming months or weeks,” warned Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Graham said he would warn China that a blockade of Taiwan would result in the U.S. blockading oil shipments from the Middle East, train and equip the Taiwanese military, station more U.S. forces on bases in South Korea and Japan, and rearm submarines with nuclear-tipped missiles. “We need more forces in the region. I think if you do those things, you could deter a blockade,” he said, adding, “I’d be very much open to using U.S. forces to defend Taiwan, because it’s in our national security interest to do so.”
China’s military deployment around Taiwan began hours after French President Emmanuel Macron left the country after spending six hours in conference with CCP leader Xi Jinping, in which they discussed Taiwan “intensely.” Macron promotes a vision of “strategic autonomy” to make Europe a “third superpower.” France is one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (along with the U.S., the U.K., Russia, and China) and the only country in the European Union with nuclear weapons.
Speaking with reporters, Macron distanced himself from U.S. leadership in general and the defense of Taiwan in particular. “The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No. The wors[t] thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”
Macron’s comments reflect the latest victory in a decades-long, explicit Chinese effort to diplomatically supplant the U.S. as a world leader. China has expanded its role in international organizations, notably in the World Health Organization, in which its handpicked director-general helped China cover up the origins of COVID-19. China is also seeking to expand its influence on every continent through its Belt and Road Initiative. For instance, while American embassies have been alienating African nations by promoting LGBT rights and lecturing them on climate change, China’s influence on the continent has steadily grown through a combination of infrastructure investment and political hardball. Even Mexico is turning to China for assistance, instead of the U.S.
One symptom of declining American influence is an increase in the amount of international trade not conducted in U.S. dollars. “The dollar is the world reserve currency,” explained economist Stephen Moore on “Washington Watch.” “This means that … we have the commanding heights of the world economy. And obviously China would love to take that away from us.”
China, Russia, India, Brazil, Argentina, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., and the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have all announced plans to “reduce reliance on the U.S. dollar” and make at least some trades in local currencies instead.
On Monday, while the Chinese exercise to “seal off” Taiwan was still taking place, the U.S.S. Milius, an American guided-missile destroyer, conducted a “freedom of navigation operation” near an artificial island in the South China Sea, engaging in “normal operations” in contested waters. In response, the PLA said the U.S. vessel had “illegally” entered its territorial waters.
“I would up our game,” said Graham. “And if you don’t up your game now, you are going to have a war.”
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.