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After massive airspace intrusion, China threatens Taiwan and the democratic world

A file photograph of Chinese jets in training (Photo: Xinhua/Yang Pan/IANS)

Just a day after 28 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ), said to be the largest ever incursion into the tiny island nation, China followed it up with a threat to the world at large.

The intrusion over the Taiwanese ADIZ on Tuesday followed a critical communique by the G7 countries on Sunday which criticised China for abuses of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and termination of human rights in Hong Kong. The G7 statement said: "We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

The G7 nations also called upon China to find a peaceful resolution to the vexed Taiwan issue–while Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, China treats the country as a breakaway province under its One China Policy (OCP).

Speaking with India Narrative, Dr Jagannath Panda, Research Fellow and Coordinator of the East-Asia Centre at the MP-IDSA, New Delhi says: "Occupation of Taiwan is becoming a prestige issue for the Chinese Communist Party. Building pressure on Taiwan and making it realise that its future is with “mainland China” is a deliberate Chinese strategy".

He adds: “Taiwan has been under China’s ‘gray zone’ warfare tactics including frequent aircraft forays, maritime exercises and patrols, cyber-attacks and diplomatic isolation for a long time. The recent Chinese air incursion is a part of that”.

Beijing responded angrily to the G7 statement saying that the G7 countries are indulging in "political manipulation". On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the G7 was deliberately "interfering in China's internal affairs. China's determination to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests is unwavering", he said.

The communist nation followed up the G7 statement with the biggest-ever intimidation of Taiwan. The Taiwan government said that Tuesday's incursion included fighter jets, bombers, anti-submarine and early warning aircraft. Taipei added that this violation of the Taiwanese territory was the largest, surpassing one that happened on April 12 with 25 planes.

According to Taipei, the Chinese mission included 14 J-16, six J-11 fighters, four nuclear capable H-6 bombers as well as anti-submarine, electronic warfare and early warning aircraft.

Panda views this show of strength as a bid by, “Chinese President Xi Jinping to make Beijing’s stand steadfastly clear: the unification of Taiwan with mainland China is inevitable, and if situation escalates, the use of force to achieve the same should not be ruled out. Hence, there is now a real concern that China is moving away from merely “theoretical talk” about enforcing unification with Taiwan to actually contemplating and planning military action".

A Reuters report said the show of strength happened on the same day as the US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan entered the South China Sea. Experts construe the Chinese flypast as a warning to the US forces in the region.

China's hostile action towards Taiwan did not go unnoticed. Identifying the strong Chinese threat to other nations, Republican politician Nikki Haley said the US must act "strongly" against China. On Wednesday, she said that if Beijing takes control of Taiwan, it would be emboldened to seize other territories.

Haley, a former US ambassador to the UN, said: "And if we don't boycott, if we don't do something to really call them out, mark my words: Taiwan is next. And if they take Taiwan, it's all over, because they will think that gives them free rein to grab any territory, not in the region, but anywhere they want to go".

Defending its action in Taiwan, an article in the State-managed news outlet, Global Times said: "The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) reportedly dispatched on Tuesday a record-breaking fleet of warplanes to conduct an exercise surrounding the island of Taiwan, with analysts saying on Wednesday that the drill indicated a stronger control over the Taiwan Straits by the PLA, and sent a strong signal to the Taiwan secessionists and their Western supporters following recent provocations, as well as to the activity by a US aircraft carrier near the region."

In the last more than one year, almost coinciding with the spread of the Covid-19 virus that originated in China, Beijing has been involved in numerous disputes with its neighbours. It has regularly carried out intimidating flights around Taiwan coupled with statements that it would seize Taiwan by force. Coast to coast, the distance across the Taiwan Strait is approximately 180 km between the two politically-divergent nations.

Among other hostilities that China carried out over the last one year include incursion into northern India in Ladakh, invading the South China Sea with maritime militia and even sending out its navy and air force close to Japanese territory.