China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said Wednesday that the purpose of recent large-scale Chinese military drills around Taiwan is to “combat the arrogance” of Taiwan “separatists,” referring to recent actions by Taipei to boost ties with the US and other Western countries.
“The purpose is to resolutely combat the arrogance of Taiwan independence separatist forces and their actions to seek independence,” said Taiwan Affairs spokeswoman Zhu Fenglian.
Zhu’s comments came after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen hosted a delegation of six Australian members of parliament. Tsai was seeking Australian support for Taiwanese membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation trade agreement.
China is also seeking membership in the trade bloc, and Zhu said Taiwan’s participation in economic groupings should follow the “one-China principle,” Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China. “The Democratic Progressive Party’s attempt to seek independence in the name of economy and trade will not succeed,” she said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling party.
Referring again to the military drills, Zhou said they would continue as long as Taiwan continues what Beijing views as provocations. “As long as Taiwan independence’s provocations continue, the People’s Liberation Army’s actions to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity will not stop,” she said.
In recent weeks, Chinese military activity around Taiwan has spiked. On September 18, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it detected a record number of Chinese warplanes in the area, although they did not come close to Taiwan’s airspace.
China has typically held large-scale drills around Taiwan in response to specific events, such as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan in August 2022, which sparked the largest-ever Chinese live-fire exercises in the area. But the recent activity appears to be more spread out and more sustained, and analysts told The South China Morning Post these “cross theater exercises” could become routine.
“Like the island encirclement patrol, cross-theater drills have become routine, taking place in the Taiwan Strait and western Pacific, which is part of combat-readiness training to prepare for the outbreak of a Taiwan contingency,” said Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Beijing-based Yuan Wang military think tank.
The US has been increasing military and diplomatic support for Taiwan in the name of deterrence, but the policies have led to much more Chinese military activity in the region.