Permanent naval battle. So Beijing could isolate Taiwan

The massive military exercises launched by Beijing following the visit to Taiwan by the speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi could continue. In addition to fears of a possible invasion of the island, the move could create a situation of quasi-embargo for Taipei, whose air-maritime space would no longer be safe for the global traffic on which the island’s economy depends.

The naval battle continues, for now only simulated, around the waters of Taiwan, where the warships of Beijing and Taipei have maneuvered a short distance from each other along the median line that separates the island from the Chinese mainland coast. About ten military units of the two Chinas they sailed a short distance in the strait, and one of the Chinese boats would also have crossed the line that marks the de facto border between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China for a while. It is not the first time that this has happened during the “unprecedented” military activities launched by Beijing in retaliation for the visit to Taipei of the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and in recent days not only vessels, but also fighters and drones have carried out several raids beyond the demarcation, simulating multiple attacks against Taiwan.

The exercises

Launched the day immediately following Pelosi’s visit, the gigantic Chinese military exercise took the form of a real show of force that literally surrounded the island, with the participation of over one hundred military aircraft and over a dozen navy units. of Beijing, which in the course of the operations also carried out shots with real ammunition (live-fire). The exercises were supposed to end on Sunday, but the Chinese government announced its intention to continue with “regular” training activities, “joint training in real war conditions, focused on organizing anti-submarine warfare operations and naval attacks ”, Along the strait that separates it from the island, and also beyond the median line. Moves in view of the “historic task” of Taiwan’s reunification with mainland China? For now, operations should be limited to just one of the seven areas around the central Taiwanese territory affected so far by wargame Chinese.

Taiwan’s reaction

During the last official day of the maneuvers alone, the Taiwan Ministry of Defense revealed that it had intercepted 66 planes and fourteen Chinese warships engaged in operations around its air and naval space, constantly monitored by the armed forces of the island. In addition, 22 aircraft flew over the midline skimming the southwestern edge of the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone. Faced with the threat from Beijing, Taiwan has not stopped carrying out its planned military exercises – even before the crisis – for this week, and will test the response capabilities of Taipei’s military units.

Command and control

The exercises served Beijing mainly to test its joint forces and command and control capabilities. For the duration of the activities, coordinated by the Eastern Command of the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese armed forces conducted articulated and complex operations, with the simultaneous and coordinated involvement of ballistic missiles, fighters and drones in different regions. Above all, the drones have been used carefully and in synergy with other capabilities, as demonstrated in the Kinmen area, a small archipelago controlled by Taiwan, where two Chinese military drones flew over the islands twice before being dispersed by the reaction of the forces. armies of Taipei with the launch of flares.

Tokyo’s concerns

Some of the ballistic missile launches – carried out with great precision and at greater distances than other exercises – landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone off Hateruma, an island far south of the Japanese archipelago, sparking the Tokyo protest. The Minister of Defense, Nobuo Kishi, he branded the launches as “serious threats to the national security of Japan and the security of the Japanese people.” Even the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, he said on Friday that China’s military exercises are a “serious problem” that threatens regional peace and security. Kishida, moreover, at the NATO summit in Madrid had shown his concerns that the war in Ukraine could convey “wrong lessons”, a clear reference to Beijing’s aims on Taiwan.

Ukrainian lessons?

The fear that the exercises were a “dress rehearsal” of invasion – as Russia did with Ukraine – is not limited to the Japanese government. Even if we are talking about completely different situations, both as protagonists and as contexts, the recent historical experience has a value. Also because Taiwan represents an insurmountable limit (strategic and ideological) for China for its own identity. And part of the friction with the US revolves around this. President Joe Biden it has three times reiterated its willingness to defend the island in the event of a Chinese attack, apparently upsetting the strategic ambiguity – only to then be relaxed by the administration on the non-change of the status quo. Beijing’s fear is that how the One China principle that Taiwan is not recognized was shaped by the United States five decades ago, now (or in the not-too-distant future) it can be changed.

Perennial exercises

The missiles and amphibious raids with which China simulated an attack on Taiwan also have a deeper value. They touch the economic aspect of the situation and go as far as the political one. So far, Chinese retaliation has been modest, stopping the importation of some food products will not by itself sink the Taiwanese economy, but there is more to be expected. The question of the diversions of naval trade produced by the Chinese exercises (commercial ships need to keep themselves safe) is emblematic. Should China decide to establish a regime of permanent military activity around the island, it could turn it into a hellish place to dock supplies. Many companies may decide to avoid it, which would cut Taiwan out of supply chains. Imagine if Beijing were to choose to actually impose a naval blockade.

Crushing the economy to hit the government

The effect would be a sinking of the economic and commercial capacities of the island, which would mean creating the conditions for the deterioration of the general conditions of life. And therefore to induce the conditions for the population to start protesting against the government, which would be seen as the cause of that critical condition. The establishment of a consistent base of internal discontent, which would be fostered by Chinese infowar operations, could be a prerequisite for promoting a destabilization from within that could become a less invasive method of taking Taiwan (certainly without arousing direct US reaction, furthermore). The objective of putting the Taiwanese economy in difficulty for Beijing is also achievable by putting a hand to imports.

Is it convenient to stop trading?

2021 – although the clash across the strait was not tender – was the year in which the interchange was most important. China is a mass market for Taiwan, while Taiwan is a quality market for China. Here is a limit though: companies like TSMC – whose founder, Morris Chang, he was having lunch with Speaker Pelosi – they are too important in (global) semiconductor production and this is one of the geo-economic aspects that blocks Beijing from too strong actions. Put simply, China cannot give up microchips and Taiwan’s most important technology products if it is to continue being the futuristic state it plans to be. However, the Chinese government could decide for selective actions, giving up imports of certain goods and blocking certain trade lines in order to suffer the effects, but making them weigh on Taiwan.

Permanent naval battle. So Beijing could isolate Taiwan