One of them was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who likely adjusted his playbook since Biden took over office from former President Donald Trump. According to Elizabeth Stauffer of the Western Journal, “after several years of dealing with former President Donald Trump, a man who was unafraid to flex his country’s military and economic muscles, Xi was delighted to have a competitor in Biden whom he could easily outmaneuver on the world stage.”
She continued: “Xi could no doubt hardly believe the great gift that was handed to him when Biden hastily pulled U.S. troops out of Afghanistan last month after abandoning Bagram Air Base and sophisticated military equipment worth over $80 billion before withdrawing all Americans and Afghan allies from the country. To say the Chinese leader was emboldened would be an understatement. His diplomats wasted no time using the moment to attack the U.S. record, comparing the Afghanistan defeat to the American humiliation in Vietnam in 1975.”
Just last week, Taiwan confirmed that it had applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the region’s largest free-trade pact that accounts for nearly 14 percent of the global economy. Other member nations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam.
However, Stauffer noted that “suffice it to say that China opposes Taiwanese membership in this group and has ratcheted up the pressure on the island nation in response. The Chinese reacted immediately to Taiwan’s announcement by scrambling twenty-four planes—including two nuclear-capable bombers—into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone,” citing a Guardian report.
“This certainly isn’t the first time China has used its military might to intimidate Taiwan, but it is the largest since June. China has stepped up these incursions over the past year. This is the CCP’s way of expressing their disapproval for perceived acts against them,” she continued.
There have been several other aggressive acts directed toward the island nation of Taiwan, “whose military capabilities are clearly dwarfed by the mainland People’s Republic of China.”
“The expense of dealing with Chinese harassment is huge all by itself. In 2020, according to a Reuters report from December, Taiwan reported spending nearly $1 billion scrambling its air force against Chinese sorties like the one last year,” Stauffer wrote.
“The expense of missions like this is a drop in the bucket for the gargantuan communist country. For the island nation, however, which must scramble fighter jets of its own in response to these provocations, each incident takes a toll on its comparatively smaller defense budget. … Mainland China can easily run these air missions and drain the Taiwanese of the resources needed to fight. If the incursions increase in number and Taiwan eventually finds itself without the money to field its entire fleet of F-16s, at some point Taiwan might simply be unable to afford to defend its own airspace,” she added.
In effect, “China could effectively whittle down the Taiwanese air force without firing a single shot.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.