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China just showed how easily one of its large-scale exercises around Taiwan can escalate into something worse


  • China last month carried out massive exercises around Taiwan, surrounding the island.

  • It showed how easily China can launch an exercise without any warning.

  • These exercises can easily escalate.

Last month, China conducted large-scale military exercises around Taiwan with the aim of sending a message.

As elements of the Chinese joint force surrounded the island democracy during the two-day event, it became clear how easily any of these large-scale exercises could escalate into a conflict, causing China the possibility of launching a blockade or quarantine of the island with little to no warning.

China’s military has been able to “essentially ramp up the pace for these large-scale exercises that look a lot like a blockade,” said Tom Shugart, a former U.S. Navy officer and current deputy senior fellow at the Center for said a New American Security think tank.

He added that the May exercise showed that the Chinese fleet is “very capable” of a blockade or quarantine of Taiwan.

The Defense Department has identified a blockade as a possibility, noting in its latest report on the Chinese military that “PLA writings describe a joint blockade campaign in which the PRC would implement blockades of maritime and air traffic, including shutting down the essential import from Taiwan, to force Taiwan’s surrender.”

If effectively implemented, such an action would potentially have immediate and serious consequences for Taiwan’s economy, halting trade and shipping. Such a move could force the military into action without necessarily provoking a military response from the US and its allies, potentially leaving the country alone.

Following the latest Chinese military exercises, US Commander for the Indo-Pacific Region Samuel Paparo said the US has closely observed the exercises, learned from them and believes they “seemed like a rehearsal” for a military action against Taiwan.

There has long been speculation that the US would respond with force to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, but the US response in the event of a blockade or quarantine, actions short of an amphibious assault, remains unclear.

Taiwan’s M109 speedboats maneuver at sea during a military exercise on January 31, 2024 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.Annabelle Chih/Getty Images

China’s Recent Exercise “Joint Sword” aimed at “joint combat readiness patrols by sea and air, joint capture of comprehensive battlefield control and joint precision strikes on key targets,” according to reports in Chinese state media. The training included mock attacks by fighter jets with live ammunition and exercises with various naval vessels, including frigates and destroyers.

The exercise seemed similarIn many ways, it is similar to the April 2023 exercises and considerably tamer than the August 2022 exercises, which took place after then-US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. The latest exercise lasted just two days, compared to seven.

And China’s declared zones for the May exercises were also only along the edges of Taiwan’s contiguous zone, compared to the 2022 exercises, which had large exclusion zones crossing Taiwan’s airspace and waters. During those exercises, China also fired missiles over the island, a very provocative action.

Yet the latest exercise came with virtually no warning, suggesting that China can continue to conduct such exercises around Taiwan at its leisure and prepare and launch them with minimal notice.

“This is not so much a separate operation, but rather a step up in pace,” Mick Ryan, a retired Australian major general and strategist who focuses on evolutions in warfare, told BI.

“What this shows us,” Ryan said, “is that they have an ongoing operation where they can now raise and lower the temperature with more accuracy than before.”

An outdoor screen shows a news report about the Chinese military exercises around Taiwan, in Beijing on May 23, 2024.JADE GAO/AFP via Getty Images

That would help China, should it suddenly adopt a more aggressive course, retain the element of surprise, which its war doctrine emphasizes as an important part of its battle plans.

By increasing and normalizing the frequency of its military presence around Taiwan, China is adopting some experts and military officials, including retired Admiral John Aquilino, the former head of US INDOPACOM, a ‘boiling frog’ strategy.

The strategy essentially involves increasing and maintaining aggression in the area so that the critical point at which China actually decides to impose a blockade or quarantine is less visible.

Such an event would be an act of war, but it still puts the US and its allies in an odd spot, weighing options on how to respond, especially if there is no large-scale violence.

Think tanks are out of play war games with different Taiwan invasion scenariossome of which have resulted heavy losses for American, Japanese and South Korean forcesand the Chinese military. However, an all-out invasion is not the only option, as recent exercises have shown.

“The exercise really highlights Taiwan’s vulnerability to many scenarios other than just an invasion,” Shugart said, noting that regardless of when and if one of these major exercises turns into a blockade, the most concerning issues are how easily that can happen. to happen. and how China continues to use its military presence to create a new normal in the area.

A screen capture from a video shows the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command launching large-scale joint military exercises around Taiwan with naval ships and military aircraft in China on May 24, 2024.Gui Xinhua/PLA/China Military/Anadolu via Getty Images

And within that new normal, China could create a situation in which Taiwan, exhausted and overwhelmed, disintegrates and its resolve is ultimately degraded.

According to a report published last month by war experts at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War, an aggressive Chinese coercion campaign – without war and more likely than a full-scale invasion – would entail increasing Chinese military presence and pressure around Taiwan and possibly even a blockade or quarantine.

The report claimed that the US is ill-equipped for such an event and is instead preoccupied with preparing for one possible amphibious attackand that “Taiwan is strategically important to the larger U.S.-led coalition to contain China, arguing that a “U.S.-friendly Taiwan connects U.S. allies in the Northwest Pacific with U.S. partners and allies in the south.”

A Chinese-controlled Taiwan “would become a springboard for further PRC aggression and would seriously endanger the US-led coalition’s ability to operate cohesively.”

Read the original article Business insider

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