Taiwan Is Seething That Chinese Warplanes Came Within 40 Miles, but the US Regularly Flies Within 15 of Russia

Red China is keeping greater distance from alternative China / breakaway province / own territory than US is from the rival superpower

Taipei reports that over the weekend Chinese warplanes crossed the mid-point of the Taiwan strait. CNN:

Taiwan’s President has accused Beijing of purposefully inflaming tensions in East Asia, after Chinese warplanes crossed the sensitive median line across the narrow strait that separates the mainland and the self-governing island almost 40times on Friday and Saturday.

Taken together, the repeated incursions, which came from multiple directions and involved a combination of sophisticated fighter jets and heavy bombers, is without modern precedent and marks a significant escalation in cross-strait tensions.

“What we are seeing now is not just a situation across the Taiwan Strait, but a regional situation. China’s recent military activities, especially in the past few days, clearly constitute a threat of force, which is part of their verbal attacks and military threats (against Taiwan),” President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters Sunday.

Aside from the President the Defense Ministry was likewise eager to play it up:

Taiwan has redefined its rules of engagement with mainland Chinese forces, allowing its military to fire back in self-defence.

“In the face of high-frequency harassment and threats from the enemy’s warships and warplanes recently … the military clearly redefined the contingency handling regulations concerning the first strike as our right to self-defence and counter attack,” the island’s defence ministry said on Monday.

The Taipei-based Liberty Times newspaper, however, quoted unnamed military sources as saying that by clearly defining the “first strike” as the “right of self-defence [and] counter-attack”, Taiwanese forces on the front line would be able to fire if they determined that the enemy intended to attack.

China’s reponse was to say “Taiwan Strait median — what is that?”:

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) claimed in a statement that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory; there is no so-called median line of the strait.”

The context of the Chinese flights is the visit of the US Undersecretary of State to Tapei, which is a clear violation of the United States’ 1979 recognition of Beijing under the One China formula. Apparently the mainland Chinese felt the need to respond in some way.

The other thing to say is that the Taiwan Strait is 130 kilometers wide at its narrowest. A plane crossing the midpoint would still be 40 miles from the island.

Compare this to the now weekly US flights to, and along, the very edge of the Russian airspace — which extends 12 nautical miles into the sea.

In other words, even in what it sees as a response to a US-Taipei provocation, Beijing is still keeping a further distance from what it regards as integral part of China, ruled by a renegade regime, than the US is from freaking Russia:

This past weekend, Russian state television on two major channels devoted substantial news segments of their week in review programs to the ongoing game of chicken that the U.S. is carrying on in the air and on the seas at Russia’s borders: on the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Barents and Okhotsk seas in the Far East. From the North, from the South, from the East and West US war planes are simultaneously being directed against Russian defenses to probe their effectiveness and score political points.

According to the statistics released by General Rudskoi on Friday and shown on the Sunday news wrap-ups, the US is now staging some 33 to 40 flight approaches to the Russian borders a week that are met by Russian fighters and sent on their way.

The CNN even characterized China’s flights as “breaches” and “repeated incursions”. So then if the Chinese flying to a point that is 41 miles off the coast of the Chinese mainland and 39 miles off the coast of Taiwan is an “incursion”, then what exactly is the Americans crossing an ocean to buzz Russia?

It is true enough that in the past Beijing and Taipei largerly stayed on their own sides of the strait as a matter of pragmatic convetion, but from Beijing’s view that only works if the US isn’t engaged in provocations such as sailing its warships right through the strait, as it now does every month.

And secondly, it was one thing for Beijing to accept an unofficial median line in the strait while Taipei styled itself a rival, anti-Communist government of China. This at least did not in principle threaten China’s territorial extent, merely its unity. However, increasingly new generations and new political currents in Taiwan are tiptoeing towards proclaiming themselves as something other than China.

And yet, even now the mainlanders still stayed nearly 40 miles away, far more than they needed to even if Taipei had declared itself non-China and Beijing had recognized it as such.

Compare this to the US Navy making it a point to come within 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands in the South China Sea. Or for that matter how is the “median line” during the now near monthly US Navy passages through the Taiwan Strait:

A guided-missile destroyer moved through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as the U.S. increases pressure on China over its maritime claims in the region, according to the Navy.

A photo posted on a Navy webpage shows destroyer USS Halsey (DDG-97) passing through the strait.

Halsey’s transit comes after USS Mustin (DDG-89) moved through the strait earlier this month. At the time, the Navy said Mustin‘s was the service’s tenth passage through the strait in 2020. 

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