A defense expert and an Asian studies expert are weighing in on the People’s Liberation Army stating it is “ready to fight” following three days of military drills around Taiwan.
“The theater’s troops are ready to fight at all times and can fight at any time to resolutely smash any form of ‘Taiwan independence’ and foreign interference attempts,” China’s military said on Monday, according to The Associated Press.
The exercises, which began on Saturday, “simulated sealing off the island,” The Associated Press also reported.
“China’s statement that its military is ‘ready to fight’ has to be taken seriously,” Dakota Wood, senior research fellow for defense programs in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement. “While China has not engaged in military operations since the late 1970s (against Vietnam), it has studied U.S. military operations for 30 years and has been hard at work developing a military informed by those studies.” (The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation.)
“Additionally, geography favors China because anything it would want to do, especially any military operation against Taiwan, would be very close to China itself. Taiwan is only 70 miles from the Chinese mainland,” Wood added. “Any U.S. response would occur from bases 1,500 miles or more away. China’s navy boasts over 350 ships, not counting Chinese coast guard and militarized commercial vessels, while the U.S. Navy maintains a few dozen ships in the immediate area.”
The Chinese Communist Party has been very clear and serious in saying how important it is to gain control of Taiwan.
It has built a military to accomplish that and each year is more aggressive in testing that force’s capabilities to seize Taiwan and to prevent Taiwan’s supporters from helping its defense.
The drills came shortly after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other bipartisan lawmakers last Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
“As the president, I represent our country in the world, whether it’s a visit to allied countries or stopping through in the U.S. and interacting with our international friends, and not only has this been going on for years, it’s the Taiwanese people’s shared expectation,” Tsai said about the military drills. “But China used this as a pretext to start military drills, creating instability in the Taiwan Strait and region. This is not the attitude of a responsible major nation in this region.”
Michael Cunningham, a research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation, also weighed in on China’s military declaring it is “ready to fight” and how seriously the declaration should be taken.
“I’d say it should be taken seriously, but … it has to be taken in its proper context,” Cunningham told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “The [People’s Liberation Army] didn’t say, ‘We’re ready to fight,’ as in, ‘We’re going to launch a war or an invasion at any minute.’ What they were saying was they’re ready should such an event occur.”
Cunningham noted that the People’s Liberation Army’s quote is “directed at the idea that Beijing has that … the United States and the ruling party of Taiwan are seeking to bring about some form of Taiwan independence, which would be China’s red line.”
“I think it’s also important to remember when this statement was made, … and it was made primarily for a domestic Chinese audience following the conclusion of military exercises that were launched after Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy during her transit through the U.S. last week,” Cunningham said. “So, the exercises were primarily intended to show Beijing’s resolve against what China’s leaders see as the U.S. and Taiwan’s ruling party trying to bring about formal Taiwan independence or at least moving in that direction, which would be a red line for China.”
Cunningham also noted that the military drills “weren’t as massive” as those conducted last August after then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited the island. He also noted that he doesn’t think China is “ready to fight over Taiwan” because “if they were, they would go.”
“They don’t think they’ll be ready for quite some time, but regardless of being ready to win or not, they are ready to fight should they [have to]. They are prepared to make whatever sacrifices they need to if they feel like they have to in order to continue claiming their ownership over Taiwan,” Cunningham said.
“So, it was very much for a domestic audience to show their resolve, to maybe help the party present itself as strong in front of the Chinese, more nationalistic part of the Chinese public, but I don’t think can—we can’t discount the threat,” Cunningham added. “It’s not a threat of an immediate fight, but it is the threat of the Chinese military saying, ‘We’re ready to fight if we feel, if the government feels we have a need to,’ and it just shows how important it is for the U.S. and for Taiwan to be prepared for any contingency as well.”
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