Chinese military maneuvers around Taiwan offer an unprecedented look at what a true military campaign by China against its neighbor would look like.
China has deployed warships around Taiwan, imposed economic sanctions and stepped up efforts to isolate the self-ruled island from the rest of the world, permanently altering the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, experts warn.
Here are some lessons from the crisis triggered by the visit to the island of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
Can a blockade of the island be carried out?
It is the first time that the Chinese army has carried out military exercises on the eastern flank of Taiwan, a strategic area for supplying the island, and through which potential US reinforcements would arrive in case of war.
With this, Beijing wants to show that it can prevent the entry or exit of the island of any ship or plane, civil or military.
Analysts have long predicted such a strategy by China in the event of a war to conquer Taiwan.
“But maintaining (a blockade) would be very costly, both in terms of China’s reputation and its military finances,” according to Christopher Twomey, a security specialist at the California Naval Academy.
China’s current economic difficulties make it unlikely that it will take the short-term risk of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s busiest waterways.
Is the Chinese army ready?
China has expanded and modernized its air, space and maritime forces in an effort to project its power globally and close the gap with the US military.
Its military capabilities are still inferior to those of the United States, however, according to the Pentagon, Beijing seeks to have, by 2027, the necessary means to defeat any resistance to an invasion of Taiwan.
For Collin Koh, a naval expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, these exercises revealed just how far the Chinese military has come since the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-1996.
What will change in relations between China and Taiwan?
Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived under the threat of a Chinese invasion. But it became much more real under Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China has imposed a boycott on Taiwanese fruits and fish. According to analysts, this measure is aimed at reducing electoral support for the pro-independence Taiwanese government.
But analysts say that China will keep its military and economic actions below the threshold of war, to avoid a direct confrontation with the United States.
“Tensions are unlikely to last,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the US think tank German Marshall Fund.
“A major crisis would affect shipping, insurance rates, trade routes and global supply chains.”
The new norm for Taiwan?
For Koh, Taiwan might have to get used to China hosting these kinds of military exercises. “Exercises around the main island of Taiwan will become the norm,” he predicts.
China regularly sends warships or warplanes across the Taiwan Strait dividing line, the unofficial border between the two neighbors, during periods of tension.
But Pelosi’s visit gave China “the excuse or justification to say that in the future it can legitimately conduct exercises east of the divide without being held accountable,” Koh added.
Did China and the United States corner each other?
China has suspended its cooperation with the United States in several key areas, including combating climate change and defense issues, a move Washington called “irresponsible.”
The Chinese government also announced
“We are at a point where US-China relations have fallen very low,” says Glasee, of the US think tank German Marshall Fund.
“I hope that our two governments will find a way to talk about their (…) red lines, their concerns and to prevent the destructive spiral in the region from continuing,” he adds.