The Speaker of the US House of Representatives has left Taiwan, but by taking the trip, she may have triggered a strategic decision by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the head of the Communist Party of China (CPC), to take over the island by force.
The question may not no longer be “whether” but “when” to launch a massive military operation to annex the Taiwan islands.
While Pelosi was still in Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Eastern Theatre command began an exercise to blockade Taiwan, deploying warships, aircraft, amphibious forces and conventional land attack missiles, feeding off from an elaborate surveillance system that included military satellites.
Chinese state media is reporting that the Chinese have also deployed DF-17 hypersonic missile in the exercise, adding a sharper message of intent.
The exercise aims to substantially blockade Taiwan by exercising control over the territory’s key ports. These include the Keelung Port and Taipei Port in the north, the Taichung port, Kaohsiung port in the south and Hualien Port in the east. "If the PLA exercises take a long time, it will constitute a substantial blockage of Taiwan," Global Times, the garrulous mouthpiece of the CPC, quoted a Chinese military expert as saying.
The PLA' s drills this time are "comprehensive and highly targeted," showing the determination of resolving the Taiwan question once and for all, another Chinese military commentator Song Zhongping told the daily.
The drill should be viewed as a war plan rehearsal, Song said, "In the event of a future military conflict, it is likely that the operational plans currently being rehearsed will be directly translated into combat operations."
The comment corroborates an explosive audio leak of a top-secret meeting of the Guangdong Military Region that surfaced on Lude media’s YouTube channel on May 14. The audio reveals a detailed plan of invading Taiwan. Participants advocate the centrality of safeguarding the Pearl River Delta area in the province. A densely populated area, it is the heartbeat of the Chinese industry. The province is majorly responsible for turning China into the workshop of the world. It includes Guangzhou, a world class trading hub, Shenzhen, the hi-tech capital, where giants of the digital age, such as Huawei and Tencent Industries are headquartered. Other major cities of huge importance include Foshan, the furniture capital, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Hong Kong and Macau.
Regarding mobilization, it reveals that Guangdong military region tasks slated by the eastern and southern theatre commands include “1,358 detachments of various types with a total of 140,000 personnel, 953 ships of various types, and 1,653 units/sets of various unmanned equipment. Other resources include 20 airports and docks, 6 repair and shipbuilding yards, 14 emergency transfer centres, and resources such as grain depots, hospitals, blood stations, oil depots, gas stations, etc.” Besides, “the national defence mobilization recruitment office will recruit new military service personnel, retired military personnel, and special talents totalling 15,500 people from our province. The National Defence Commission clearly stated that our province shall coordinate the implementation of the seven types of national level warfare resources, including, mainly, 64 10,000-ton roll-on/roll-off ships, 38 aircraft, 588 train cars and 19 civil facilities including airports and docks.”
The leak further reveals that the task flow from the “the Party Central Committee, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s major strategic decision in view of the big picture of international and domestic affairs, as well as the overall strategic situation of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It was made after carefully reviewing the timing and the situations”.
In the manoeuvres to blockade Taiwan, the PLA is deploying the J-20 stealth fighter jets, H-6K bombers, J-11 fighter jets, Type 052D destroyer, Type 056A corvette and DF-11 short-range ballistic missiles.
There are four major reasons as to why President Xi may have made up his mind to annex Taiwan.
First, there is widespread support in China for such a move where nationalist fervour is running high. A show of strength at this time will bind people as well as well as disparate factions within the CPC ahead of the 20th Party Congress this autumn that will decide on a new leadership line-up for the next five years.
Second, from a strategic perspective China’s top leadership appears to have made up its mind to break its naval containment imposed by the US and its allies under the First island chain—a string of mostly militarised islands that run from the Kamchatka in the north pass though Taiwan and end up in Borneo, with Okinawa in Japan as the fulcrum. Occupation of Taiwan by China would be central to breaking the stranglehold of the First island chain. Once Chinese submarines are based in the deep waters of Taiwan, the First island chain would be broken as there is no way that the Americans can monitor the movement of these platforms which can then roam with impunity in the Pacific.
A) Taking Taiwan breaks the first island chain
— Indo-Pacific News – Watching the CCP-China Threat (@IndoPac_Info) July 30, 2022
Third, the Chinese would like to make their move in Taiwan before the Australia- UK-US (AUKUS) grouping dedicated to China’s containment matures.
Comparing China’s 1995/1996 live fire exercises during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis (left) and with those just announced for August 2022 (right).
— M. Taylor Fravel (@fravel) August 2, 2022
Fourth, unlike 1996 when they were found wanting in their fracas with Taiwan, the Chinese war machine has been significantly upgraded. "In 1996, we didn't have aircraft carriers, the Type 055 large destroyer, nor hypersonic missiles… Since then, our ability to strike, capture and kill has greatly improved and our military options and confidence have increased," Song, the military expert was quoted as saying.