China’s Military, ‘Chasing the Dream,’ Probes Taiwan’s Defenses

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Over the past year, China has been increasing its military pressure on Taiwan, deploying jets, drones, bombers, and other planes to intimidate the island. Chinese naval ships and air force planes have been moving closer to Taiwan’s territorial seas and skies, testing its defenses and wearing down its military forces. China has also been operating more frequently in the skies and waters off Taiwan’s eastern coast, signaling its intent to dominate an important sea area for Taiwan’s defense. Beijing claims Taiwan as its lost territory and is willing to use force to achieve unification. Experts predict that China may further demonstrate its military power when Taiwan’s vice president, Lai Ching-te, visits the United States.

China’s military activities near Taiwan have become increasingly diverse and sophisticated, with Chinese aircraft often crossing the median line in the Taiwan Strait, erasing the informal boundary that previously existed between the two sides. This eliminates the warning time and strategic depth that Taiwan used to have, making it more difficult for Taiwan to respond to surprise escalations. Taiwan’s defense ministry reported 33 Chinese military aircraft near the island in the previous 24 hours, including 10 crossing the median line. The number of military exercises has increased since last August, coinciding with high-profile visits from foreign officials to Taiwan. These exercises are seen as attempts by China to enhance its ability to impose a blockade and assert dominance over the island.

China’s deployment of various types of aircraft around Taiwan, including aerial refueling planes, anti-submarine warfare helicopters, and military drones, highlights its efforts to project power beyond its shores and conduct more sophisticated operations involving the air force and navy. Chinese aircraft have frequently entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), which is a wider buffer area where aircraft are supposed to identify themselves before entry. China does not comply with these rules, and last year made over 1,700 flights into Taiwan’s ADIZ, nearly double the number in 2020. The trend is aimed at normalizing the presence of Chinese military aircraft near Taiwan and weakening Taiwan’s security.

Despite the increase in military activities, few in Taiwan believe that an invasion by China is imminent. The People’s Liberation Army’s actions are seen as a long-term strategy to erode Taiwan’s security and alertness. Taiwan’s defense budget is under pressure to respond to China’s military encroachments. While the United States has provided advanced fighter jets and military equipment to Taiwan, China’s numerical advantage in terms of combat-ready fighter jets remains significant. Taiwan has about 300 fighter jets compared to China’s 1,900.

Taiwan has implemented robust defense systems, including radars and missiles, that can counter limited Chinese air intrusions and ballistic missiles. However, large-scale or saturation attacks could overwhelm Taiwan’s air defense systems. Taiwan has increased its defense spending to monitor and track Chinese military activity but faces challenges in sustaining these efforts. Taiwan’s readiness exercises demonstrate its capability to counter limited strikes, but the fear remains that if a conflict escalates to ground fighting, Taiwan would have already lost air and sea superiority.

In conclusion, China’s intensified military pressure on Taiwan is aimed at asserting dominance and wearing down the island’s defenses. Taiwan faces challenges in countering China’s actions due to China’s numerical and technological advantage. While a full-scale conflict is not imminent, the long-term goal of China’s military activities is to weaken Taiwan’s security and erode its alertness. Taiwan’s defense budget is strained, and it relies on support from allies like the United States to maintain its deterrence.

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