The largest Chinese military maneuvers around Taiwan reveal key clues about the plans of Beijing to impose a blockade in case of war to reconquer the self-ruled island, and have revealed an increasingly emboldened Chinese military, experts say.
In response to the visit to Taiwan by the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, China launched extensive military exercises in six sea zones around the island, which should last until sunday.
The maneuvers, in which they participate fighter planes, helicopters and frigatesare intended to simulate a “blockade” of Taiwan and include “attacks of targets at sea”, according to the official news agency Chinese New.
It’s the first time that Chinese military maneuvers take place so close to Taiwan (some less than 20 kilometers) and that the island, claimed by Beijing, is literally surrounded, including on its eastern flank, a crucial area because that is where potential US reinforcements could come from.
The “lockdown scenario” has long been mentioned as one of the options that mainland China could use to conquer the island, and obviously gain credibility with these exercises.
A blockade would aim prevent any entry or exit of ships and commercial or military aircraft. But also impose a denial of access to US forces stationed in the region.
The Chinese military “obviously has all the capabilities to impose such a blockade,” he told AFP. Song Zhongping, a Chinese military commentator Independent.
“We can already see from the current exercises that Taiwanese fighter jets and ships they cannot take off or leave their ports“, he pointed.
– Overall test –
the chinese army fired a dozen ballistic missiles on Thursday that reached several maritime areas around Taiwan. For the first time, some of them flew over the island, Chinese state television CCTV reported on Friday.
Beijing mobilized more than 100 aircraft and more than 10 frigates and destroyersincluding the J-20 stealth fighter and a Type 055 destroyer, the crown jewels of the air and naval forces, according to New China.
But more than the team, these military exercises allow testing and fine-tuning the level of coordination of the different mobilized army corps: land, sea, air, rocket force (in charge of the missiles) and strategic support force (cyber and electronic warfare).
This is a turning point for the Chinese army’s newly established Eastern Theater of Operations, which was created in 2016 and supervises the entire eastern maritime space of the country and thus Taiwan.
What China is showing now “confirms that its capabilities are strong,” John Blaxland, a professor of international security at the Australian National University, told AFP.
“It is evident that have the ability to coordinate their actions on land and seato deploy their missile systems (…) and to deploy quickly,” he added.
These exercises also demonstrate to the Taiwanese, the Americans or the Japanese that the Chinese “they have what it takes to do what they threaten to doBlaxland pointed out.
“On the other hand, what they do is closely studied and watched” by other countries, especially the United States, which “can learn from it” to counter the Chinese military in the future, the expert stressed.
However, the Americans remain for the moment rrelatively passive militarily.
– ‘Strong adversary’ –
During the previous crisis of taiwan strait (1995-1996), under the mandate of Bill Clinton, the US Navy sent several warships through the strait and deployed aircraft carriers near the island.
This time, “the US government is cautious to avoid an escalation, which it does not want,” he said. Lonnie Henley, a former US intelligence officer and professor of international studies at the Elliott School in Washington.
The caution of the United States is also explained by the fact that China has vastly increased its military capabilities compared to 1996, when it was unable to deny the US Navy access to the area.
“In some areas their capabilities may even exceed those of the United States,” said Grant Newsham, a former US Navy officer and researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.
“If a (future) battle is confined to an area directly around Taiwan, then the Chinese navy will be a strong adversary. And if… the Americans and the Japanese don’t intervene, things will be very difficult for Taiwan.”