China’s Military Drills Around Taiwan: How Will it Impact Global Stability?

China has started military drills around Taiwan just three days after William Lai was sworn in as the self-governed island’s new president. Li Xi, a spokesperson for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, has called the drills a “strong punishment” for “separatist acts”. The drills, which started early Thursday, are happening all around the main island, including the Taiwan Strait to its west, and around the Taipei-controlled islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin. Taiwan’s defence ministry condemned Beijing’s actions, calling them “irrational provocations”. Taipei has dispatched naval, air, and ground forces to “defend the [island’s] sovereignty”, the ministry added. China’s military said its drills focus on joint sea-air combat-readiness patrols, precision strikes on key targets, and integrated operations inside and outside the island to test the “joint real combat capabilities” of its forces. “This is also a strong punishment for the separatist acts of Taiwan independence forces and a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces,” it said. China has long claimed self-governed Taiwan as part of its territory – but the island sees itself as distinct. Beijing has labelled Mr Lai a “separatist” and “troublemaker” over remarks he made in the past supporting Taiwanese independence. In his inauguration address last Monday, Mr Lai called on China to “stop threatening Taiwan”. Beijing denounced the speech, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing Mr Lai as “disgraceful”. After Mr Lai’s election victory last January, Beijing issued a statement insisting that “Taiwan is part of China”. It has also repeatedly rebuffed Mr Lai’s offers for talks. Over the past year, China has repeatedly rehearsed encircling Taiwan with fighter jets and navy ships. In the weeks leading to Mr Lai’s inauguration, Taiwan has reported an uptick in Chinese military incursions. So far, the manoeuvres have fallen short of an invasion and stayed within a grey zone. Analysts have told the BBC that grey zone warfare tactics are aimed at weakening an adversary over a prolonged period – and that is exactly what China is trying to do with Taiwan. Taiwan said the drills on Thursday “highlight [Beijing’s] militaristic mentality”. “In recent years, the continuous harassment by Chinese aircraft and ships has significantly harmed global peace and stability. This military exercise not only fails to contribute to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait but also highlights the aggressive militaristic mentality of the Chinese military,” said Taiwan’s defence ministry.