Friday, November 15, 2013

Strait talking - China's military power grows in the Taiwan Strait

China is continuing to build up its military strength while increasing ties with Taiwan, as Beijing maintains its claims on the island. J Michael Cole examines how the shifting balance of forces raises the threat of blockade and armed conflict facing Taiwan

Government officials in Beijing, Taipei, and Washington, echoed by mainstream media, have hailed relations between the two countries across the Taiwan Strait as the most encouraging in more than 60 years. However, an annual report issued by Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence (MND) on 8 October offered an alternative outlook, claiming that China remains the greatest threat to the island's security and is acquiring capabilities to ensure a successful invasion and occupation by 2020. Beijing has never relinquished the military option to occupy Taiwan, which it regards as a province awaiting 'reunification', by force if necessary.

The National Defence Report 2013 was released at a time of growing exchanges between Taiwan - an island of 23 million people with a democratically elected government - and China. Since the election of President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008, representing the National People's Party (Kuomintang: KMT), and his re-election in January 2012 for a second and final four-year term, relations between the two sides across the Taiwan Strait have, on the surface, improved from previous years.

My feature article, published in the current issue of Jane's Intelligence Review, continues here (subscription required).

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