China, violating previous understandings, has been sending large numbers of fighter aircraft and bombers into Taiwan’s airspace this month.
At the same time, China’s ruling Communist Party is issuing threats. The flights of military aircraft are not warnings, the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper stated in an editorial on September 18. “They are rehearsals on taking over Taiwan. What is needed is a political reason that can turn them into real battle to smash Taiwan independence forces.”
Fortunately, bad weather is coming. The November-through-January period is not conducive to conducting invasions across the Taiwan Strait. Nonetheless, China is clearly gearing itself for war.
Beijing calls the island “sacred” Chinese territory, but Taiwan has never been part of communist China, the “People’s Republic.” In fact, Taiwan has never been formally recognized as part of any Chinese state. People on the island, in survey after survey, overwhelming consider themselves “Taiwanese,” not “Chinese.”
Beijing nevertheless insists it has sovereignty over Taiwan, which formally calls itself the Republic of China. The People’s Republic has been sending planes near Taiwan’s territory to make a point.
Last month, the message was directed at Washington. While U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar visited Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, China ordered aircraft to fly near the island.
This month, China’s incursions have been larger. On the September 18, Beijing sent 18 aircraft across the median line, which divides the Taiwan Strait in two. The following day, 19 Chinese aircraft, including nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, flew into Taiwan airspace. The Chinese military in the past has flown H-6s on provocative “island encirclement patrols.”
The large incursions on the 18th were especially significant. A Chinese fighter pilot got on the radio to deny that there was a median line, which for years both sides had respected to avoid accidental contact. The pilot, breaking practice, also made a political statement, calling Taiwan a “pawn” of “foreign forces.”