Beijing Stages War Games Around Taiwan as Backlash Begins Against the New President, William Lai

‘Right now, we’re in the early days of seeing the full Chinese response,’ an analyst of Beijing says.

Taiwan Coast Guard via AP
A Taiwan Coast Guard member monitors Chinese navy vessel operating near the Pengjia Islet north of Taiwan on Thursday. Taiwan Coast Guard via AP

Communist China launched military drills around Free China on Thursday, in what appears to be just the beginning of Beijing’s backlash in the wake of the inauguration of the island ‘s new democratically elected president, Lai Ching-te. 

Beijing is conducting two days of land, navy, and air exercises in the Taiwan Strait and and around Taiwan-controlled islands along the Chinese coast as “a powerful punishment for the separatist forces seeking ‘independence’ and a serious warning to external forces for interference and provocation,” the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said on its Weibo account. The command said the drills are meant to test PLA units and their abilities to hit targets and gain control of the battlefield.

The development comes three days after Mr. Lai took office. His inauguration address pledged to “neither yield nor provoke” the Communist Party leadership, yet asked Beijing to halt its military intimidation tactics. Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, subsequently called Mr. Lai “disgraceful” and other harsh labels circulated in Chinese state media.

“Right now, we’re in the early days of seeing the full Chinese response,” the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Bonny Lin, said at a panel event at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office at New York City on Wednesday evening. “As far as China’s rhetoric, it is way more heated than China’s interpretation of any of President’s Tsai’s speeches.”

Mr. Lai’s address Monday represented “a departure from prior inauguration speeches,” Ms. Lin observed. Compared to Teipei’s last president, Tsai Ing-wen, the new president is already using language that is more defiant of China and clearly addresses the threat it poses to Taiwan. His speech referenced the Republic of China, Taiwan three times, while Ms. Tsia’s 2016 inauguration speech never invoked the country’s official name, seen as an assertion of its sovereignty.

Beijing’s rhetoric has quickly turned into economic, political, and now, military action.

On Tuesday, China sanctioned one of its fiercest critics in Washington, Congressman Mike Gallagher. The foreign ministry said they banned him from entering the country and could also ban organizations and individuals there from trading and cooperating with him, after he “interfered in China’s internal affairs.” Mr. Gallagher responded in a statement that the sanctions are part of the “New Cold War.”

On Wednesday, China took aim at American industry, freezing the Chinese assets of 12 American defense-related companies and 10 executives that have sold arms to Taiwan. The foreign ministry described the measure as retribution after Washington on May 1 “indiscriminately imposed illegal unilateral sanctions on a number of Chinese entities on the grounds of so-called Russian-related factors.”

The New York Sun

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