China and the United States remain in a political crisis over Taiwan, even as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) reduces the number of planes and ships flying over the Taiwan Strait, according to panelists speaking on August 22 at a moderated discussion by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the military dimensions of the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis.
According to Kathrin Hille, Financial Times Greater China Correspondent.
Taiwan is seeking to limit Chinese encroachment beyond the midpoint that had served as an unofficial boundary until the norm-breaking PLA drills earlier this month.
“There are fewer and fewer military options available to the CCP that don’t seem even more escalating.”
The military exercises were “probably the largest and most complex since the 2016 strategic reform” of the PLA into five theater commands with responsibilities for operations in different strategic directions, according to Mr. Taylor Fravel, program director of the PLA. Securities Studies at MIT. The demonstrations were the first opportunity to test command and control capabilities, as well as the PLA’s ability to conduct integrated joint operations.
The focus is on the next steps for the United States, which could retain the ability to move away from the spiral of military crisis. A lack of response would mark the Chinese show of force as a complete success from the CCP’s perspective and could potentially encourage further action. However, for the United States to engage in a deterrent response would come with inherent risks of China running out of military options that can be safely dismissed.
“If the rate at which [China] unlocks options is slower than the rate at which it burns escalation options,” said Roderick Lee, research director for China Aerospace Research at Air University, “so there are fewer and fewer options military that the CCP has at its disposal that don’t even seem more scalable.
Beyond crossing the median line, possibilities still include incursion into territorial waters or overflights of offshore islands. “If you look at the textbook options for military deterrence activity at this point,” Lee continued, “you’re really looking at larger scale, or really provocative activities, like moving parts of the country in times of wartime or partially wartime, or no joke demonstrated strikes against targets in Taiwan, or possibly even targets in the United States.
The next stage
The US Navy is expected to plan a crossing of the Taiwan Strait in a voyage that affirms its right to travel wherever it is legally permitted to venture, a so-called FONOP (Freedom of Navigation Operation)
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan had been planned since at least April and the timing allowed for an impressive response from across government, including economic sanctions, diplomatic condemnations against regional neighbors and the publication of a government white paper.
The panel was unclear on the demands of a protracted Taiwan Strait crisis, but a clear contrast was drawn between the structured conditions of readiness China enjoyed prior to Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei and the more diplomatic phase. fluid into which the three nations are now entering.