China Increasing Military Pressure on Taiwan
Intensifying Presence and Provocations
China has been steadily intensifying military pressure on Taiwan over the past year, deploying jets, drones, bombers, and other planes in greater numbers and further distances around the island. Chinese naval ships and air force planes have been creeping closer to Taiwan’s territorial seas and skies, testing its vigilance and wearing down its military forces. The increasing presence of Chinese forces signals their intent to dominate the strategic sea areas that are essential for Taiwan’s defense and potential aid from the United States.
Beijing’s Claims and Intensification
Beijing claims Taiwan as its lost territory and seeks unification, whether peacefully or by force if necessary. It seizes moments of high tension to escalate military activities around the island. The upcoming transit of Taiwan’s vice president through the United States is expected to trigger another show of force from China. Beijing views these transits as a challenge to its stance that Taiwan is not an independent state. China aims to assert air supremacy by erasing the informal boundary between the two sides in the Taiwan Strait.
China’s Increasing Aircraft Deployments
China regularly sends diverse and sophisticated arrays of planes toward Taiwan on a daily basis. These sorties often cross the median line in the Taiwan Strait, reducing Taiwan’s reaction time to a surprise escalation. China deploys planes for aerial refueling, helicopters for anti-submarine warfare, and an increasing number of military drones. This showcases China’s efforts to project power beyond its shores and integrate its air force with its navy.
Normalization of Activities and Taiwanese Response
Since 2019, Chinese fighter jets, bombers, drones, and other aircraft have frequently entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) without identifying themselves or obeying instructions. In 2020, China made more than 1,700 flights into Taiwan’s ADIZ. Taiwanese experts see China’s increased military activity as a long-term effort to undermine Taiwan’s security and alertness. Although war is not imminent, Taiwan faces challenges in pushing back against Chinese encroachment due to its smaller military size.
United States Support and Defense Challenges
The United States has provided military aid to Taiwan, including advanced fighter jets and other hardware. However, China’s numerical advantage in combat-ready fighter jets is significant, with approximately 1,900 compared to Taiwan’s 300, many of which are older models. Taiwan’s defense budget is burdened by its efforts to monitor and respond to Chinese military activities.
Taiwan’s Defense Capability
Taiwan has robust ground-based defense systems, such as radars and missiles, to counter Chinese air intrusions and ballistic missiles. While it has the capability to counter limited strikes, large-scale or saturation attacks could overwhelm Taiwan’s air defense systems. Taiwanese exercises demonstrate preparedness, but there are concerns about the vulnerability of Taiwan’s air and sea superiority in a full-scale conflict.