China trolls democratic Taiwan with air-raid drills amid rising military tensions

Taiwan says it is sending some military personnel to Guam for US military training.
By Qiao Long, Hsia Hsiao-hwa and Shum Yin Hang
2021.11.03
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China trolls democratic Taiwan with air-raid drills amid rising military tensions Military personnel walk past a PLA Air Force J-16 fighter plane at an aircraft exhibition in southern China's Guangdong province, Sept. 28, 2021.
AFP

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has begun air defense drills in some parts of the country, in a move commentators said was a bid to step up pressure on the democratic island of Taiwan, which the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under Xi Jinping has threatened to annex.

Authorities in the eastern provinces of Jiangsu, Shandong, and Anhui recently handed out distributed air defense emergency kits to residents and posted public information videos about what to do in the event of an air raid.

And a PLA document circulating online signed by authorities in Suzhou's Wujiang district detailed "air defense unit training" with photos of participants in camouflage uniforms, bearing militia logos.

The move comes after the PLA escalated incursions into Taiwan's southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in recent months, in a move Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen has called a threat to national security.

In one video posted by the Changsha Evening News' Weibo account, a public-address system blares: "All our troops are now under the highest level of combat readiness."

The video reports on air raid drills across Hunan province, the latest of dozens in recent weeks, while some Weibo users posted photos of military vehicles on the streets.

Meanwhile, the Hefei municipal government in Anhui posted photos and captions of emergency kits being handed to local residents, with a similar program reported in Nanjing.

The Weibo account belonging to Air Force World magazine reported on Wednesday that a Yun-8 military transport aircraft flew into "what Taiwan claims is its ADIZ" on Nov. 2.

Chinese current affairs commentator Wei Xin said officials are mobilizing at all levels to demonstrate that they are complying with Xi Jinping's ideology.

"These actions have a political background, because the National People's Congress revised the law on war mobilization recently, so the atmosphere is similar to that of Japan in 1938," Wei said.

"Also, the sixth plenum of the 19th Party Congress will be held soon, and this is creating an atmosphere around [China's ambitions towards] Taiwan and the future leadership succession," he said.

"We are now seeing the kind of popular support linked to the idea of so-called military unification of Taiwan, similar to what we saw in Germany and Japan in the early 1930s," Wei said.

Political posturing

Political commentator Bi Xin said the moves are a form of political posturing aimed at Taiwan.

"If there was going to be a war, basically we'd be under martial law," Bi said. "This is to give public morale a boost, and show we haven't given up on [annexing] Taiwan."

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Apple Daily newspaper reported that 40 Taiwanese marines are undergoing joint training with their U.S. counterparts in Guam for a month.

Taiwan military expert Cheng Chi-wen said Guam is a key garrison training base for U.S. forces in the Western Pacific, and that the authorities have become much more willing to talk about such exchanges in recent months.

"In the past, it was more about doing these things but not talking about them," Cheng told RFA. "But more of it is coming out in the media owing to the stepping up of exchanges between the United States and Taiwan recently."

Going on for years

Taiwan military commentator Chi Lo-yi agreed that such training has been going on for many years.

But he said Taiwan's marines may not be deployed in the same way as U.S. Marines, who are generally used for offensive operations. They are more likely to be needed to retake Taiwan's own outlying islands, particularly Dongsha.

"We may assume that the communist forces will invade our outer islands," Chi told RFA. "Then, if we want to retake them, we will need the Marines, because regular troops won't be of much help."

"The outer islands would have to be retaken by the Marines, although I daren't speculate about whether this is the point of this [training]."

Taiwan recently dispatched more patrol and rescue vessels to Dongsha, where many of the Chinese military incursions have been concentrated.

"Why Dongsha?" Chi said. "Because so many military aircraft have been overflying the southwest part of Taiwan's ADIZ recently, along the Bashi Channel to Dongsha."

"Naturally this points up Dongsha as significant, which is unusual, which is why we need to strengthen maritime patrols around Dongsha," he said. "In particular, we will need to boost our special intelligence capabilities and military reconnaissance radar equipment."

"We should also have an air defense facility stationed there, to act as more of a deterrent."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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