China’s Live-Fire Exercise in Taiwan Strait: More Rhetoric than Reality!

The state media of the People’s Republic of China has announced that PLA Navy will be holding a live-fire drill in the Taiwan Strait in a geographically confined area which falls under the jurisdiction of China.  PLC cleared that China’s stance is to show its might and act in a provocative manner. There is no intention of the cross-strait rise in tensions or crisis.

China had conducted a massive fleet review the largest of its kind since 1949 in the South China Sea. The whole exercise was headed by President Xi Jinping who reiterated that the need for a strong Navy was never more compelling than now. Xi Jinping has made the modernisation of defence as the key agenda to achieve the larger goal of China’s makeover.  He stated that people of China are proud of their Navy which has “stood up in the East”. The review comprised 48 vessels, 76 aircraft and around 10,000 personnel. The Fleet Review had followed a huge Naval exercise by China in March. Despite the aim stated by Chinese media and leader, there have been umpteen media reports saying that it was a typical Chinese show of strength or a warning to Taiwan and possibly to the United States as US had recently signed the Taiwan Travel Act under which Cabinet-level national security visits between US and Taiwan will be increased at all levels. The law was ratified by Senate and will raise the diplomatic stature of Taiwan on an international platform by allowing high-level visits. The US had always stood for the ‘One-China’ policy since 1979 and such a move is seen as a watershed event in its previous stance towards China. The two nations are already locked in a spiralling trade dispute along with the issues of influence in the South China Sea.

Beijing has always laid its claim over the entire South China Sea which is strongly opposed by other nations in the region like the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei etc. who have also laid overlapping claims in the region. China’s construction of man-made islands housed in the Spratly island chain has been slammed by the United States as it views them as a possible hindrance to free movement in the potent sea-lanes. Latter is responsible for about $3 trillion in global trade every year. China, in turn, has explained its position by terming the construction of defensive facilities in the South China Sea under the natural rights of sovereign states.

The recent live-drills have also been dubbed as a show of force in international media. The tones of strong warnings to Taiwan against latter’s covert push for independence echoed in media. Taiwan media has contrastingly muted the rhetoric by negating the significance of the drills. Taiwanese army will not be put on any alert amid the Chinese adventures and thus downplay the psychological warfare.

Various details of the drills were posted in the Chinese media especially the exclusion zone for all vessels during the time of the exercise. The exclusion zone was outside the Quanzhou Bay which is completely inside the territorial waters of China. Thus, the zone was a clear indication that that whole exercise was not in the international waters and thus a clear signal that PRC did not want to intimidate or threaten Taiwan. US Defence Department has categorically stated that the whole exercise carries little operational concern as there is a huge disparity between the on-ground situations of the drill and the hyped impression it has cultivated in the media.



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