For more than six weeks, Taiwanese military officers wondered where the Chinese fighters had gone.
During the month of May, only four entered the island air defense identification zone. In the first half of this month, there were raids in just four days and a nine-day strike with no activity. This compares to a previous model of 20 raids per month.
But on June 15, a day after U.S. President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders issued a statement condemning China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behavior.” 20 PLA fighter jets, Four nuclear-capable bombers and four more military aircraft have entered Taiwan’s ADIZ. It was the largest number of aircraft ever dispatched by the People’s Liberation Army in the area, with some of them even circling the southern tip and east coast of the island before turning back.
A senior Taiwanese government official has said that Beijing will not be able to stop itself after the NATO communiqué – and the Summit G7 statement issued a few days earlier – criticized Beijing’s activities in the Taiwan Strait and its repression of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
“Beijing wanted to show wrong those in the West who accuse it of publishing a theory of China’s threat,” the official said, referring to reduced military activity in May and early June. “But of course they couldn’t keep it.” Once Taiwan receives some support, they have to react. ”
Chinese analysts said Beijing had no choice but to show its decision after the Biden administration accelerated its efforts to build a “united front” against China at the G7 and US summits. NATO – something that President Xi Jinping’s administration had long feared but that more materialized when Donald Trump was president of the United States.
“The G7 and NATO have been distorted into anti-China platforms,” said Victor Gao, a former Chinese diplomat now at the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-backed think-tank. “There are more and more forces in China that believe that the United States wants to distinguish China as its fundamental enemy, so let the United States have an enemy.”
Beijing has also responded to G7 criticism of its policies in Hong Kong with a show of force in the territory, where it recently teased the only one public commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on Chinese soil. In the early hours of Thursday, police arrested senior personnel in pro-democracy Apple Daily for alleged “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”
A senior official from the national security division of the Hong Kong police force said later that the arrests were linked in part to more than 30 articles published in the newspaper.
Beijing’s actions around Taiwan and Hong Kong have been accompanied by poor rhetoric. Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and one of the most full outspoken diplomats, said the G7 communiqué “highlighted the bad intentions of the US and a few other countries to create antagonism and widen the gap with China.”
“The United States is sick,” Zhao added. “The G7 must take his pulse and prescribe a medicine for him.”
Such comments seem to contradict Xi’s recent instructions, saying last month that official propaganda should “set the right tone, be open and trustworthy but also modest, humble and strive to create a credible, kind and respectable image of China.” “.
Xi, however, also noted that China has been involved in an international “public opinion struggle.” “Powerful anti-China forces in Western society want to attack and discredit China,” Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to Paris, said last week in an interview with state media. “We must fight to safeguard our interests. Our security and sovereign development interests are inviolable.”
Yun Sun, a China foreign policy expert at the Stimson Center in Washington, said such rhetoric reflects the growing alarm in the Xi administration. “There is a real concern in Beijing that a united front is being formed [and] it includes a lot of elements that China doesn’t want to see like Taiwan, maritime security and human rights, “Sun said.” That’s why we’re seeing some unusually harsh responses from Beijing on the G7 and NATO. “
“Germany, France and other EU countries are reluctant to confront China [openly as] the United States, “added Shi Yinhong, a professor at Beijing Renmin University, who advises the State Council on foreign policy issues.” But they are now closer to the United States when it comes to dealing with China. “.
Some Chinese officials and analysts argue that while Beijing will continue to respond strongly when criticized for Taiwan, Hong Kong or other “core interests,” this does not preclude cooperation with the US on other issues such as climate change or global tax reform.
Fu Ying, a former Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom, said at a recent seminar that the Biden administration wanted to “prevent China from moving forward to replace the United States.” But, he added, “hopefully [technological and economic] competition can be managed to ensure it is on a positive track, pushing the other to seek common development and improvement ”.
Beijing “should stand firm on issues of principle, but not be too distracted by anti-China hostility,” Gao said. “In the long run China will have a larger economy than the United States – no one can change that. Time is on China’s part.”
More information from Xinning Liu in Beijing