"We hope that regional peace and stability can still be maintained for as long as possible."
If there's any doubt that China is ready—and willing—to go to war to pursue the reunification of Taiwan with the mainland, the September 18 real-combat military exercise conducted near the Taiwan Straits by the Eastern Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) should put it to rest.
In fact, a recent editorial in the Global Times said the drill was not a warning to Taiwan and the United States, but a "rehearsal for Taiwan takeover."
Taiwan media reported that on the morning of September 18, a total of 18 PLA aircraft approached the island from four directions: southwest, west, northwest and north, with some crossing the "median line" or the line midway between the mainland and the island which the island's leadership considers a symbol preventing military conflicts and maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits for many years.
The PLA fighter jets' live-ammunition drill came a day after US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach visited Taiwan on Sept 17. In August, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar had also visited the island.
The closely scheduled trips, according to Chinese media, suggest that the United States considers the island as "a useful card to play in its escalating attempts to contain China by initiating a new Cold War."
The Global Times editorial said the PLA had even been "restrained" in its response to the visits of US officials: "Every time a high-ranking US official visits Taiwan, the fighter jets of the PLA should be one step closer to the island. If the US secretary of state or secretary of defense comes to Taiwan, the PLA should fly its aircraft over the island and conduct exercises above it. The missiles we test should also fly over Taiwan, even its Presidential Office Building."
China's Ministry of National Defense spokesperson made it clear that the military exercise was aimed at sending a clear message of its displeasure over the "frequent collusion between the US and Taiwan," as exemplified by the visit of Krach to the island.
But there's another dimension to this. The response of Beijing to Krach's visit was prompt. Taiwan and the US had not officially announced Krach's visit until he boarded the plane. Krach arrived in Taiwan on Thursday, September 17. But the very next day, even as there was no announcement on the military exercise of the PLA in advance, it would appear that the Sept. 18 drill was a last-minute decision.
That the PLA could mount a military exercise on short notice indicates it has the capability to mobilize and organize a military action targeted at Taiwan. Although it was technically a military exercise, the fact that it was held with live-ammunition shows that the PLA can engage in actual combat in such a brief period of time.
What the recent incident in the Taiwan Straits also shows is that PLA has already accumulated enough information on Taiwan's defense system and knows its strong and weak points. Thus, these drills are actually a dress rehearsal for taking over Taiwan.
The Global Times concluded: "The US and Taiwan must not misjudge the situation, or believe the exercise is a bluff. Should they continue to make provocations, a war will inevitably break out. Those who have underestimated China's determination recently have all paid the price. China decisively put forward the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong. China has shown that it doesn't fear war on the China-India border. The Taiwan Straits is by no means a place where separatists can act recklessly. If Taiwan authorities try, they will definitely be met with the mainland's military solutions."
And more: "Taiwan is a small place. It has no conditions for a modern military confrontation. Taiwan independence is a dead-end. "
For its part, the China Daily newspaper warned: "The Taiwan question is purely China's internal affair, and any attempt to use the island to control China is doomed to failure... It should not be doubted that China has both the capability and resolve to thwart all external interference and separatist acts."
Another China Daily editorial pointed out: "Beijing continues to exercise restraint... (It) has maintained its composure and seeks to avoid the worst-case scenario, knowing what the mainland needs is time and development, rather than war...Beijing is capable of properly managing its internal affairs, and the peaceful reunification of the country remains its preferred choice."
It concludes with this dire warning: If "Washington and Taipei continue to play with fire by touching Beijing's red line, they will be closing the window of possibility for a peaceful reunification...China's reunification is a historical inevitability. It is a matter of when, not if." We will continue to monitor developments in the Taiwan Straits and hope that regional peace and stability can still be maintained for as long as possible.