China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held a military drill on Jan. 11, the day of Taiwan’s presidential election. Shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election victory, Chinese state-run media warned that Beijing could resort to military action to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.
The military drill was conducted by the 73rd Group Army, one of the three active group armies belonging to the Eastern Theater Command of the PLA. Based in Xiamen City, Fujian Province, a coastal city facing Taiwan across the strait, it is presumed to be China’s main military force to attack Taiwan should Beijing ever declare war on the self-ruled island.
The Chinese regime claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and has not renounced the use of force to take it under its control. Taiwan, formally known as the “Republic of China,” has its own democratically-elected government, military, and currency.
The Eastern Theater Command posted a statement on Jan. 11 about the drill on Chinese social media WeChat, which began with a poem, “A drill is no different than a real battle, soldiers are instantly surrounded by the smoke of war.”
The military drill followed the most strict and challenging standards, the statement said. Photos of CAIC Z-10 attack helicopters and a Mi-17 Medium helicopter were posted to show off the PLA’s military strength.
Photos taken during the drill revealed that the Army Aviation Unit of the 73rd Group used Type 052D and Type 052C destroyers, two Type 075 landing helicopter docks, and a variety of military helicopters, including CAIC Z-10 attack helicopters and the Harbin Z-20. In addition, armored brigades and artillery brigades acted as supporting units in the drill.
According to the post, the main purpose of the drill was to “oppose those who advocate Taiwan independence” and “to prevent foreign forces from interfering in China-Taiwan affairs.”
Chinese state media also reported the drill, and pointed out that, “the choice of the drill date is worth pondering,” possibly a hint that the drill is meant to threaten Taiwanese citizens not to vote for an anti-communist candidate.
On the same day, the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command Navy, also known as the East Sea Fleet, announced that a destroyer detachment would conduct an actual five-day-and-four-night combat training on the ocean. Type 052D and Type 052C destroyers would participate, and there would be live fire drills as well as air defense and missile defense drills, it said.
Shortly after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected, Chinese state-run media warned about military action to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.
Hu Jinxi, editor of one of China’s hawkish publication Global Times, published a commentary on Jan. 12, the day after Taiwan’s election, suggesting that using military force on Taiwan is now high on China’s agenda.
“Reuniting Taiwan with the mainland using military force is no big deal, considering the difference between military forces of mainland and Taiwan. It will be easier than the PLA’s liberation of Beijing 70 years ago,” Hu claimed.
He pointed out the real challenge that China has to prepare itself for is the military intervention or economic sanctions from the United States.
“Strategically, we need absolute certainties in two aspects. First of all, we must be able to easily make the U.S. army suffer an unbearable loss if they come to intervene. Moreover, we must make sure that the United States would not dare to launch a large-scale retaliation against China, nor would it dare to threaten China with a nuclear war,” Hu wrote.
“Secondly, China must surpass the United States in economic strength, so that the United States would be incapable of sanctioning China, or uniting the Western forces to impose sweeping sanctions on China. In other words, when China uses military force to unite with Taiwan, [we want to make sure that] our military action will not incur serious economic uncertainties to our country.”