China Taiwan conflict escalates with military drills – Could there be war? Expert analysis

China: PLA carries out beach-grabbing and landing exercises

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China’s military announced they had carried out assault drills and beach landing directly opposite Taiwan on Monday, with tensions growing between the two territories. China has long claimed Taiwan as its own territory but has received push-back from the democratically ruled island. Now Beijing appears to be increasing its military action both by air and sea.

On its Weibo blog, the official People’s Liberation Army Daily newspaper said the drills had been carried out “in recent days” in the southern part of Fujian province.

The action had involved “shock” troops, sappers and boat specialists, the Chinese military newspaper added.

They detailed how troops were “divided into multiple waves to grab the beach and perform combat tasks at different stages”, it added, without providing further details.

The newspaper also released a video of soldiers in boats then storming a beach.

They could be seen throwing smoke grenades, breaking through barbed wire defences and digging trenches in the sand.

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China often carries out military exercises up and down its coast as well as in the disputed South China Sea.

Recent concerns have mounted over increased aircraft activity in Taiwan airspace, with the largest mission ever from China seeing 52 aircraft – including 36 fighter jets, 12 H-6 bombers, two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft and two Su-30s – taking place last week.

Taiwan has denounced what it calls China’s coercive tactics against it and says it will defend itself if attacked.

But with tensions mounting, could we see a full-scale invasion in the coming months?

On Saturday, China’s President Xi Jinping promised: “The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland… will definitely be fulfilled.”

This was an outward threat against Taiwan, however, there was no timeframe outlined in his speech.

But Chinese state media – The Global Times – warned war “could be triggered at any time.”

Despite these threats, Barbara Kelemen, Associate and the lead intelligence analyst for Asia at security intelligence firm Dragonfly, told some type of Chinese military action against Taiwan is becoming a realistic prospect, but a full-scale invasion is unlikely.

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Ms Kelemen said: “Some type of Chinese military action against, or affecting, Taiwan is becoming a more realistic prospect, although still very unlikely.

“This is because the US has taken several steps to strengthen its relationship with the island.

“US President Biden’s latest actions seem to indicate that he sees supporting Taiwan as a pillar of a broader geopolitical strategy to counter China’s growing power in Asia, and his stance has been interpreted by Beijing as being increasingly aggressive.”

Instead of a full-scale attack, Ms Kelemen says China could “take more assertive steps towards Taiwan.”

This could be to “test the United States’ support for the island” and even “deter Washington from pursuing further strengthening of its relations with Taipei”.

Ms Kelemen laid out potential situations we could see going forward.

The intelligence analyst explained: “Among the potential scenarios, we could see China move to seize outlying islands either in the Strait or South China Sea, carry out cyber attacks on critical state infrastructure, and increased submarine activity around Taiwan.

“However, a full-scale military invasion of Taiwan by China remains a remote possibility in our assessment, at least in the next couple of years, as this would likely result in major economic and human costs for China.”

Ms Kelemen explained due to Taiwan’s importance in trade, any large-scale attack could adversely affect Beijing.

She said: “Indeed, Taiwan is responsible for around 60 percent of global semiconductors output and around one-third of global shipping passes through surrounding waters – all of which does not seem to be in China’s interest to disrupt.”

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