The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) carried out live-fire drills on Wednesday in the Taiwan Straits. Several types of warplanes participated in the military exercises, including H-6K bombers, Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets. The PLA Air Force announced following the drills that it has sent jets to patrol around the island. The drills and island patrols represent the Chinese mainland's determination and ability to tackle Taiwan independence forces and safeguard cross-Straits relations.
The drills came after recent pro-independence activities on the island, especially the high-profile advocacy for independence by the head of Taiwan's administrative authority, Lai Ching-te. Taiwan independence forces are even attempting to organize a "referendum." Before the mainland's military drills, Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen watched Taiwanese naval drills simulating an attack on the island on April 13 for the first time since she took office in 2016. She arrived in Swaziland Tuesday for a visit to maintain ties with one of its two African allies.
The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council said that it is very dangerous and worthless to harm cross-Straits relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits. However, as pro-independence activities on the island have run rampant recently and Taiwanese are seemingly not vigilant against a possible war caused by Taiwan independence forces, the mainland must take firm action to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Under the overwhelming military pressure posed by the PLA, voices on the island chiding pro-independence forces and activities have increased remarkably. Mainstream media outlets in Taiwan covered the mainland's live-fire drills and commented on the military exercises as a way to deter Taiwan independence forces represented by Lai. The drills not only demonstrate a huge gap between Taiwan and the mainland in military strength, but also show the mainland's resolve and capability to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The exercises are also a clear and tough signal to the US that it is damaging cross-Straits ties. Against the backdrop of a pending China-US trade war and China being considered the biggest strategic rival in the US National Security Strategy report published on December 18 last year, the Trump administration is playing the Taiwan card again to make the Chinese government back off.
The US and pro-independence forces in Taiwan show no restraint and have been getting closer since Tsai assumed office. US President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act in March, which allows US officials at all levels to travel to Taiwan. The US State Department approved a marketing license this month that allows US defense companies to sell submarine-building technology to Taiwan. A US-Taiwan defense industry conference will be held in May to discuss military cooperation between the two sides. The American Institute in Taiwan, Taipei Office, will be in service in June. In addition, the Trump administration hasn't criticized or questioned the rampant secessionist moves on the island, sending a wrong signal to pro-independence groups.
The Taiwan question is the most sensitive and important core issue in China-US ties. Washington has frequently played the Taiwan card to corner China. After protests lodged by the Chinese Foreign Ministry ended in vain, the PLA must send a message to the US. A military approach is the last and the most effective one. The drills and island patrols come following the mainland's largest-ever maritime military parade in the South China Sea on April 12 to warn Washington that developing US-Taiwan relations won't help Taiwan improve its ability to confront the PLA, or even shake the Chinese government's resolve in safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity. The mainland will instead take tough measures to combat Taiwan independence advocates and promote reunification of the country.
Taiwan independence forces' attempt to cozy up to the US and their secessionist activities will only result in strong opposition from the mainland. The Tsai administration should recognize the 1992 Consensus and negotiate with the mainland. US endeavors to play the Taiwan card will only complicate China-US relations and the situation across the Taiwan Straits.
The author is an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.