ess than week after the inauguration of a new administration in Washington, China is already flexing its muscles in the Taiwan Strait with a sizable show of force over the weekend. This escalation suggests that even as Beijing seeks a “reset” with Washington, D.C., under the Joe Biden administration, its coercive strategy against the democratic island-nation of Taiwan that it claims as its own will continue apace.
On Saturday, thirteen Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and PLA Navy (PLAN) aircraft penetrated Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The incident involved a Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, eight Xian H-6K bombers and four Shenyang J-16 fighter jets. The next day, fifteen aircraft—two Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, two Su-30, four J-16 and six J-10 fighter jets, as well as one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft—flew into the southwest part of the ADIZ. Then on Monday, fifteen aircraft intruded into Taiwan’s ADIZ: two Chinese Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, two Su-30, four J-16 and six J-10 fighter jets, as well as one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft. According to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, those were the highest number of Chinese aircraft to penetrate Taiwan’s ADIZ in 2021, and the highest since September 2020. Eighteen aircraft penetrated the ADIZ on September 18 (two H-6 bombers, eight J-16s, four J-11s and four J-10s) and nineteen—in “pincer formation”—on September 19 (twelve J-16, two J-10s, two J-11s, two H-6s and one Y-8). Later that month, PLA aircraft also intruded across the median line in the Taiwan Strait, and Chinese officials announced that the tacit agreement that had underpinned the median line no longer (or had never) applied.
Hostile PLAAF and PLAN activity in the Taiwan Strait had already become more frequent after Beijing’s nemesis, President Tsai Ing-wen, was re-elected with a record number of votes in January 2020, thwarting whatever hopes the Chinese regime may have had for Han Kuo-yu, its preferred candidate from the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).