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Intel Brief: China’s Military Exercises around Taiwan

Date: 23/05/2024

Who’s involved:

  • China’s People Liberation Army (PLA), Republic of China (Taiwan), President Lai Ching-te, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

What happened?

  • On 23/05/2024, China’s PLA began two-day military exercises around Taiwan and several islands. The drills come three days after the inauguration of Lai Ching-te, leader of the DPP, who stated in his presidential address that he would protect Taiwan’s sovereignty and uphold Taiwan’s democracy. Beijing strongly objects to his presidency and the DPP’s view on Taiwan’s independence. After the announcement of military exercises, China’s Global Times stated that the exercises are intended to ‘punish Taiwanese independence secessionist forces and to send a stern warning to belligerent external forces’.

  • China’s PLA exercises are conducted by a joint force of the army, navy, air force and rocket force and will take place in the Taiwan Strait, the north, the south and east of the islands. There are also exercises taking place around the islands of the Taiwan territories of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin near the coast of mainland China. These are in addition to the PLA’s already sending aircraft and ships almost daily to wear down Taiwan’s defense and apply pressure to the island. China has not yet revealed how many aircraft or ships it was deploying in the exercise. 

  • Taiwan has scrambled jets and put missile, naval and land units and put on high alert in response. Taiwan’s military and officials have been expecting some show of military force after the inauguration on Monday. Taiwan’s ministry of defense said China’s actions had caused ‘harm to global peace and stability’. The opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), a party generally seen as pro-China, also condemned China’s actions. 


  • China’s military exercises are intended to send a message to what China believes are ‘secessionist’ forces in Taiwan. Beijing has not ruled out using force to reunify the islands. The last time China held major drills took place in April 2023, after a visit from the US Republican and speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy. Beijing opposes meetings between the US and Taiwanese representatives. 

  • The drills are significant and increase the risk of escalation, yet they are smaller than in August 2022. After the visit of Nancy Pelosi to the island the PLA fired missiles near and over the island of Taiwan and lasted for over four days, in what has been called the ‘Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis’. The exercises provide lessons for the PLA on how to conduct a blockade of the island by the sea and restrict air access. The main difference in the current exercise is that there is a focus on the smaller islands closer to the Chinese mainland, which could provide training to the PLA to seize one of those islands. 

  • It is likely that there are more exercises planned for this year. The name of China’s current operation is Joint Sword 2024A, suggesting that there may be another round of B and C in Beijing’s plans for this year. 

  • President William Lai said in his speech that he will continue his predecessor's strategy of not overtly provoking China while at the same time improving ties with the US and other regional partners such as Australia, the Philippines and Japan. He said that he is open to dialogue with Beijing, and will avoid conflicts that could draw in regional partners or the US. Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa also said that 'Japan and Taiwan share the same values and is listed as an extremely important partner'. 


Intel Brief_ China's Military Exercises around Taiwan
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