China has previously warned Taiwan that “independence means war.” Just a couple of weeks ago state media outlet Global Times published a piece warning that when (not if) war breaks out, the US would abandon Taiwan. But the state media saber-rattling escalated yesterday with this piece in the Global Times. It explains why Chines military aircraft have been flying near Taiwan in record numbers over the past few days.
According to statistics from Taiwan island, the PLA has sent warplanes into the island’s “airspace” in 198 days so far this year. Such a number reflects that the PLA has carried out wide-ranged and profound operations to familiarize itself with battlefield conditions, with a large number of PLA Air Force units having experience flying close to the island. Once the order to attack is given, the PLA’s pilots will fight as “experienced veterans.”
The DPP authorities have violated the 1992 consensus and are recklessly in pursuit of secessionism. They are willing to act as an anti-China chess piece in conjunction with the US, and thus has pushed the Straits situation to the brink. They have constantly hyped up claims that they are at the forefront of the so-called democratic world to resist “authoritarian rule.” They have thus turned themselves into a block that the Chinese mainland must get rid of strategically and an evil force the mainland must crush.
The PLA is forming a siege of Taiwan with a show of strength as it did in Beijing in 1949. There is no doubt about the future of the situation across the Taiwan Straits. The initiative of when and how to solve the Taiwan question is firmly in the hands of the Chinese mainland.
The Global Times published a follow-up editorial today which is just as blunt:
The curtain of preparations for a comprehensive military struggle by the Chinese mainland has obviously been drawn open. The PLA’s military drills in the Taiwan Straits are no longer limited to declaring China’s sovereignty over the island, but to implement various forms of assembly, mobilization, assault and logistical preparations that are required to take back the island of Taiwan. Without giving up efforts for a peaceful reunification, it has increasingly become the new mainstream public opinion on the Chinese mainland that the mainland should make earnest preparations based on the possibility of combat…
If the US and the DPP authorities do not take the initiative to reverse the current situation, the Chinese mainland’s military punishment for “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces will eventually be triggered. Time will prove that this warning is not just a verbal threat.
There are reasons to be concerned about this talk that go beyond simple Chinese nationalism. You may have seen reports, such as this one Jazz wrote last week, about problems China is having keeping the power on. As much as 2/3 of the country has experience blackouts or power-rationing in the past few weeks and that could become more serious as winter approaches:
According to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, the Sinolink Securities brokerage firm has said China will need 1.85 billion tonnes of thermal coal between now and February next year.
At current supply levels, there’s an anticipated shortfall of 344 million tonnes. That’s 19 per cent less than what’s required…
Such shortages aren’t new. They’ve been increasing in frequency and severity over the past two years.
What is new is they’ve begun to get bad enough to affect residential supply.
China has made an effort to limit the impact of power shortages on homes but this winter that impact might be unavoidable. And, obviously, if people are left shivering in their homes and unable to use their microwave, that’s going to generate a lot of negative sentiment. Some of that negative, anti-government sentiment will spill out on social media before the censors can get to it. Some of it might even blame Xi Jinping.
Facing the possibility of bad news on the home front, it’s pretty commonplace for dictators to ramp up some kind of distraction abroad. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu made this point yesterday in an interview with an Australian station. “Even though the threat may not be imminent at this point, there might be some conditions that China may use force against Taiwan,” Wu said. He continued, “They might launch a crisis externally, in order to divert domestic attention. So the recent power rationing or power outages in China, that is something that we have been observing very carefully. We are concerned if the domestic discontent or economic slowdown is getting very serious, Taiwan might become a target to divert its domestic attention.”
Taiwan’s safety could depend in part on China’s ability to keep the heat on this winter. But even if we get through this short-term crisis, China is setting expectations among its own nationalists at home who sometimes don’t realize that the wolf-warrior bravado they are hearing from outlets like the Global Times don’t reflect reality.
Update: Gen. Jack Keane on Fox News: “This is a crisis, I think, that is going to get worse before it gets better.” Keane predicts Xi Jinping is moving up a possible attack on Taiwan. He also notes that opponents of China have a big naval presence in the area right now to send a message.