Communist China’s increasingly belligerent and aggressive actions against Taiwan are intended to do more than just test its defenses or intimidate the politicians and population. They also intend to wear down Taiwan’s military and force the small island nation to spend massive resources to respond to the regular incursions.
This is just another element in China’s Gray Zone strategy in the region.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) constant naval drills nearby and regular aircraft incursions by the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) are taking a financial toll on Taiwan. As Reuters reports:
In the past few weeks, Chinese fighter jets have crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer zone, and flown multiple missions into Taiwan’s southwestern air defence identification zone.
In response to all of the PLAAF incursions this year, Reuters noted, Taiwan’s air force has scrambled 2,972 times against Chinese aircraft. To date, this has cost T$25.5 billion (US$886 million), Taiwan Defense Minister said to the Taiwanese parliament.
This nearly US$1 billion expense is significant for a small country like Taiwan with a population of 24 million. Taiwan’s armed forces are well-trained and equipped but dwarfed by China’s mammoth military.
As a comparison, reports Reuters, last year the U.S. approved an $8 billion sale of advanced F-16 Viper jet fighters to the island, “a deal that would bring the island’s total number of the aircraft to more than 200, the largest F-16 fleet in Asia.”
Rather than wasting the money on incessantly intercepting intruding PLAAF jets, that $1billion could buy Taiwan another eight F-16s.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has admitted the strain these repeated Chinese drills were placing on them, saying, according to Reuters, “Recently the pressure has been great. To say otherwise would be deceiving people.”
An extended financial war of attrition, with even more drills and incursions, is likely and is just one tactic in China’s Gray Zone Conflict playbook to soften up and wear down Taiwan.