Crisis Fatigue and Other Impacts of Chinese Incursion

October 8, 2021 Updated: October 8, 2021


The Chinese regime continues to aggressively penetrate Taiwan’s air space. Since the Oct. 1 anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) takeover of China, Beijing has sent nearly 150 planes through Taiwan’s air identification zone, which has forced Taiwan to scramble its fighters and activate air defenses numerous times.

These events are incredibly important for what they signify and what they would lead to, which includes China pressuring Taiwan until the timing is correct, China using these incursions as a signal to the world of its dominance, and inducing a sense of crisis fatigue that could lead to a sneak attack.

These planes are not the first act of war strike. As many analysts note, the Chinese regime would start a war with a cyberattack, overwhelming missile or drone strike, massive electronic warfare, and then follow up with air strikes once its target’s air defenses have been significantly degraded. A token amount of lightly escorted bombers would be a poor way to start an attack.

The timing is also completely wrong for an attack. Yes, the United States’ actions in Afghanistan send a signal of weakness, but China is hosting the Olympics in mere months. This is propaganda bonanza for the CCP as it gets to show the world how important China is. China gets six weeks of free advertising for being the greatest country on Earth. Beijing won’t step on an event in which it literally invested billions and which will be a free poster.

These actions do have an impact in their symbolism. They act as a sort of inverse of the Freedom of Navigation patrols the United States does. These are operations where Washington sends a warship through the territorial waters of contested territory in the South China Sea. This might sound provocative, but it sends a message that the United States upholds international law and rejects the Chinese regime’s aggressive attempts to claim land. If international law is disregarded, it means that issues are solved by whoever has the biggest military and is willing to assert it at the expense of its neighbors. In short, without using the constraints of international law, Beijing would be incentivized to be even more aggressive.

The inverse of that would be China flying bombers within Taiwan’s air identification zone. This reasserts the claim the CCP had since 1949, that Taiwan has and will always be a part of China. In contrast to Freedom of Navigation patrols, these are not a part of international law. While the regime doesn’t enter Taiwanese territory, it operates in a way that is a clear provocation. At this point though, it has been so long and both nations have taken such different trajectories that many people in Taiwan consider themselves Taiwanese, instead of Chinese.

A Taiwanese Air Force F-16 in foreground flies on the flank of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6 bomber as it passes near Taiwan on Feb. 10, 2020. (Republic of China (ROC) Ministry of National Defense via AP)

The biggest impact of this event may be what doesn’t happen. Every time the Chinese aggressively penetrate Taiwanese airspace or conduct large maneuvers on the island-nation’s borders, this produces what is called crisis fatigue. And when nothing happens during so many crises, it opens Taiwan and the West to a surprise attack.

If the West receives warning of a pending Chinese attack, the many false starts in incidents, such as the Chinese flybys, might cause them to disbelieve their intelligence. For example, many people wonder why the French fell to a surprise German attack even though they had ample time to prepare, and there were limited targets and times for the Germans to attack. But during the winter, so little happened between the belligerents that this period was dubbed the “phony war.”

By the spring of 1940, the French knew an attack was coming. But the Germans delayed their invasion of France several times while the high command tinkered with the details. Thus, when the Germans were ready to invade, there had been so many false starts and people who cried wolf that most of the units needed for the attack were already in place. The French, because they had been in a state of crisis for so long, misread the relatively small troop movements as insignificant, disregarded the signs of an impending attack, and six weeks later Paris fell.

Given the continuing threats from a nuclear North Korea, aggressive China and Russia, and numerous terrorist attacks, it is important to remain vigilant. Since 1949, communist China has fought preemptive, offensive wars with each of its neighbors. It continues to aggressively bully its neighbors.

While these maneuvers are largely symbolic, the symbol is that of a Chinese fist ready to punch its neighbors. The timing is wrong for an invasion, as any possible strike won’t happen until after the 2022 Winter Olympics. But the Chinese regime’s constant patrols keep its claims in mind and may lead to crisis fatigue when it is ready to attack. While the constant Chinese aggression might become background noise to policymakers, we must remain vigilant for every crisis to avoid a surprise attack.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Morgan Deane
Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine, a military historian, and a freelance author. He studied military history at Kings College London and Norwich University. Morgan works as a professor of military history at the American Public University. He is a prolific author whose writings include "Decisive Battles in Chinese History," "Dragon’s Claws with Feet of Clay: A Primer on Modern Chinese Strategy," and the forthcoming, "Beyond Sunzi: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Government." His military analysis has been published in Real Clear Defense and Strategy Bridge, among other publications.