China Launches "Punishment" Drills Around Taiwan. Why China Wants To Punish Taiwan?

Not the first time, but as a “punishment” to Taiwan the PLA warplanes, multiple destroyers and frigates were spotted encircling Taiwan and its outlying islands. The drills began Thursday morning. In response, the Taiwanese army reportedly transported Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) supersonic anti-ship missiles to the coast.

The tussle between China and Taiwan again seems to be the centre of attention in the geopolitical stage.
On May 23, China as a “punishment” to Taiwan launched Military drills around the island country. The eastern theater command of the Chinese PLA launched a two0day joint military drill on Thursday and Friday.
The exercise code name is Joint Sword-2024A

On Thursday morning, Dozens of warplanes, multiple destroyers and frigates of the PLA were seen encircling Taiwan and its outlying islands.

“The drills are being conducted in the Taiwan Straits, the north, south and east of Taiwan island, as well as areas around the islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu, and Dongyin,” China state media Global Times reported.

It also shared a picture showing the locations where the PLA conducted Joint Sword-2024A exercises on Thursday.

Previously

In August 2022, after the former US house speaker Nancy Peloci visted Taiwan, China to flex its muscle to the emerging Taiwan-U.S. friendship performed a large-scale and unprecedented live-fire military exercises around Taiwan.

Though, This is not the first time China has conducted military drills around Taiwan. The Xi-Jinping-led country has conducted intense military exercises around the island almost daily over the past four years. It last staged large-scale war games near the island in 2023 and 2022.

But, What triggered China to give “punishment’ to Taiwan?

China’s recent initiation of military drills underscores its discontent with Taiwan’s newly inaugurated President, Lai Ching-te. For context, China asserts that Taiwan is part of its territory and has vowed to reunite the island with the mainland, using force if necessary. However, Taiwan remains a self-governed island.

The military exercises commenced three days after Lai Ching-te’s inauguration speech, which China criticized as a “confession of independence.” Lai, whom China has labeled a “dangerous separatist,” celebrated a “glorious” era for Taiwan’s democracy in his address and urged China to cease its threats, emphasizing that the two sides of the strait are “not subordinate to each other,” according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi condemned Lai as “disgraceful.” Subsequently, Chinese state media quoted a spokesperson for the PLA’s theater command, stating that the latest drills are “a strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces and a stern warning against interference and provocation by external forces.”

As the drills began, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, quoted by AFP, declared, “Taiwan independence forces will be left with their heads broken and blood flowing after colliding against the great…trend of China achieving complete unification.”

How Did Taiwan Respond to this?

In response to China’s military drills, Taiwan has mobilized its air, ground, and sea forces, with the island’s defense ministry pledging to “defend freedom.” According to Nexta news, the Taiwanese army has deployed Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) supersonic anti-ship missiles to the coast as a countermeasure to China’s maneuvers.

President Lai Ching-te, in a speech on Thursday afternoon, reaffirmed his commitment to Taiwan’s defense without directly mentioning the ongoing drills. “Faced with external challenges and threats, we will continue to defend the values of freedom and democracy, and safeguard peace and stability in the region,” he declared. Lai also expressed his resolve to “stand on the front line” to protect Taiwan.

“The launch of military exercises on this occasion not only does not contribute to the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait, it also highlights (China’s) militaristic mentality,” the Taiwan’s defence ministry said.

Why China asserts dominance and conducts drills around Taiwan? What does it want to prove?

China asserts that Taiwan is an integral part of its territory under the “One-China Policy,” which declares, “there is but one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China.” The Chinese government firmly opposes any notion of “Taiwan independence,” “two Chinas,” or “one China, one Taiwan.”

During former US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in 2022, China warned that such a visit would “seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” In response, the US reaffirmed its commitment to the One-China policy. Following Pelosi’s visit, China initiated extensive military drills around Taiwan.

Recently, China has again ramped up its military activities around Taiwan, viewed as a “show of force” and a stark warning from Beijing, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to reclaim it by force if necessary.

Victor Gao, a chair professor at Soochow University in China, interprets Lai Ching-te’s May 20 speech as a declaration of war. Gao believes that Lai’s speech, which clearly differentiated China from Taiwan, fundamentally undermines the One-China principle.

“China wants to show that if Lai still wants to take the path of Taiwan independence… it can make Taiwan collapse without a war within a week or two, which will deal a fatal blow to the people of Taiwan…,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Meanwhile, Collin Koh, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore, said, “The drill is not meant to accomplish anything more than warn the just-inaugurated Lai administration that they are more than ready to react, and to deter any moves towards so-called Taiwan independence.