The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has recently conducted a massive joint military exercise in the areas surrounding the island democracy of Taiwan. The three-day event, facilitated by its Eastern Theater Command, was announced on Monday by the Chinese Defense Ministry.

“The naval, air and conventional missile forces of the Chinese PLA Eastern Theater Command held drills in seas and airspace to the east and southwest of Taiwan Island from May 6 to 8 in a bid to test and improve the joint operations capability of multiple services and arms,” wrote the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China in its official statement.

Since its conception, the Republic of China, or Taiwan as we know it, has been claimed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as part of its sovereign territory. It all began when the Nationalist Government of China was forced to flee the Chinese mainland after the government takeover of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949. Since that time, neither government recognises the legitimacy of the other.

Taiwan has since made its home in its island territory and has established democracy in contrast to China. Reclaiming Taiwan has always been the largest ambition of the PRC, but recent years saw it become more assertive as the country grew into an economic power.

This can be seen in China’s push for the “One China Policy,” which is a foreign policy that requires countries that interact with China to recognize it as the sole legal Chinese entity. This, in turn, implies support for China’s claim on Taiwan. However, the West never fully committed to the One China Policy, particularly the United States, which has continued to deal with Taiwan and supply it with weapons.

A KJ-500 and 4 J-11Bs from the Chinese Armed Forces (N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons). Source:
A KJ-500 and 4 J-11Bs from China’s Armed Forces (N509FZCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Global Times, a Chinese state-funded publication, reported aerial, maritime, missile, and other drills that were conducted around Taiwan. The Liaoning aircraft group was also deployed east of Taiwan along with a surmountable number of combat fighters in the west.

Taiwanese officials reported several instances of Chinese aircraft passing through the island nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ). 12 Chinese fighter jets, two bombers, and four other aircraft were identified in the ADIZ on Friday. Two bombers and three other aircraft were seen on Saturday. Two more were spotted in Taiwan’s ADIZ on Sunday, the last day of the exercise.

Even before the massive military exercise, the PLA has routinely deployed military aircraft in Taiwan’s ADIZ. In the first month of the year, over 39 Chinese aircraft were spotted in the country’s ADIZ.