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China sorties 71 warplanes close to Taiwan as tensions in the region increase

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The Chinese military sent a big message to Washington and Taipei by flying a record 71 aircraft close to Taiwan’s airspace on Monday. This large show of force was Beijing’s reaction to President Biden signing the 2023 defense budget that includes more support for Taiwan. President Biden has pledged $10 billion to Taiwan over the next five years.

China has vilified the U.S. move as an attempt to contain it and interfere in its domestic affairs. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

Since August, when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, tensions between China, on one hand, and Taiwan and the U.S. have increased. China has stepped up its activity in the area and has been sending aircraft close to Taiwan’s airspace on a nearly daily basis.

Beijing characterized this latest foray as a drill but also clarified the target.

“This was a firm response to the current escalation of collusion and provocations by the U.S. and Taiwan,” Senior Colonel Shi Yi, a spokesman for the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said in a statement,

The White House National Security Council released a statement affirming its support for Taipei.

“We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability in line with our long-standing commitments and consistent with our one-China policy,” the statement read.

China has frequently said that it wants to peacefully bring Taiwan under its control, however, Beijing has not ruled out using force to do so.

Taiwan extends military conscription to one year

Taiwanese Army Aviation and Special Forces Command staff. (Photo by 玄史生/Wikimedia Commons)

In response to the repeated Chinese threats, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has extended Taiwan’s compulsory military service from four months to one year beginning in 2024.

“No one wants war,” Tsai said. “This is true of Taiwan’s government and people, and the global community, but peace does not come from the sky, and Taiwan is at the front lines of the expansion of authoritarianism.”

Taiwan has a small and mostly professional military: Out of the country’s 188,000-strong military, 90 percent are volunteers, and just 10 percent are men doing their required four months of military service.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden met in Bali in November, where Xi reiterated China’s views that U.S. support for Taiwan is a potential sticking point between the two countries that could ignite a crisis or even a conflict.

Xi has tried to outwardly stabilize relations with the United States and other Western nations and other Chinese leaders are trying hard to portray China in a good light.

Related: Are Russia’s Su-57 and China’s J-20 really stealth fighters?

Beijing’s subversive actions against the US

Fentanyl pills seized by Homeland Security Investigations. (Photo by Ron Rogers/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang penned a piece for the National Interest magazine in which he wrote that the two nations should “get along based on mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation.” However, China conducts nefarious activities against the United States.

Back in September, I spoke with Derek Maltz, who was the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the United States Department of Justice (DoJ), Special Operations Division (SOD) for almost 10 years and had previously been the chief of the New York Drug Enforcement Task Force. 

He told me that the Chinese are shipping vast amounts of fentanyl to Mexico from where it crosses into the United States.

Maltz added that this is “China’s strategy of destroying and destabilizing America from within by distributing its poison” and characterized the practice as “unrestricted warfare.”

Beijing wants a weak U.S., and as soon as it feels that is the case, it can more easily coerce Taiwan into joining China.

Feature Image: Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare to provide then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen with a demonstration of their capabilities during a visit to the unit in China on July 12, 2011. (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

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Steve Balestrieri