China Adopts ‘Assertive Posture’ With Eye on Taiwan, Admiral Says

The Tien Kung Ⅲ area defense system, developed indigenously by the National Chun-Sheng Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles. NCSIST

Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute on March 4 and in testimony to Congress on March 9, said the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is stepping up its pressure on Taiwan and called for the island nation to increase it defensive capabilities.

In his testimony on Capitol Hill, Davidson said, “The PRC has adopted an increasingly assertive military posture to exert pressure and expand its influence across the region. This is particularly stark concerning Taiwan. Over the past year, Beijing has pursued a coordinated campaign of diplomatic, informational, economic, and — increasingly — military tools to isolate Taipei from the international community and if necessary, compel unification with the PRC.”

“I worry that they’re [China] accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order… by 2050,” he said.  “Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before that. And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”

At the American Enterprise Institute, Davidson said it is vital the U.S. continue arms sales to Taiwan and encouraged their continued investments in national defense. Taiwan receives military assistance from the United States, but being diplomatically and commercially isolated, Taiwan has had to develop much of its defense capabilities on its own. 

“Helping to encourage Taiwan on its investments, a mix of capabilities that include capabilities that helps Taiwan deter, as well as provides some decent [other] capabilities that helps Taiwan defend, I think is a very important approach that the [Defense] Department needs to take,” Davidson.  “And I would say, you know, for the greater U.S. government — consistent arms sales to Taiwan to help in this deterrence strategy is critically important. And again, that takes a balance to capabilities to go to them.”

The Taiwan News reported on Feb. 17 that Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) has been directed to ramp up production of Taiwan-made weapons systems, including anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles. NCSIST is responsible for the development, manufacture and sale of Taiwan’s indigenous defense technology and weaponry.

According to the news report, the list includes the Sky Bow III (Tien Kung III) surface-to-air, anti-ballistic missile and the Hsiung Feng III supersonic missile capable of destroying both land-based and naval targets.  Development of the Sky Sword II (Tien Chien II) radar-guided air-to-air missile, as well as some classified missile systems, will be stepped up. 

The PRC is a nation of 1.4 billion, with the largest navy in the world. One hundred miles away is Taiwan, a country of 22 million people. Militarily, it almost seems to be an untenable position. 

“Taiwan is the most dangerous Sino-American flashpoint, because regaining de facto sovereignty over Taiwan has long been a Chinese core interest, and the potential for the use of force to accomplish reunification is always on the table,” said Ret. Rear Adm. Michael McDevitt, author of the recently published “China as a Twenty-First-Century Naval Power: Theory, Practice, and Implications” from Naval Institute Press. 

Should China and Taiwan begin hostilities, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a decided home-field advantage. “In the face of almost two decades of Chinese military modernization, Taiwan’s forces — as well as the U.S. forward deployed forces — are vastly outgunned on a day-to-day basis, as they operate literally in China’s front yard,  because they face the totality of China’s armed forces,” McDevitt said.

‘“[PRC President and Communist Party Secretary] Xi Jinping has suggested that an indefinite perpetuation of the current status quo, with Taiwan existing as a de facto independent country, cannot go on forever. Xi gives the impression he is impatient because he fears perpetuation of the status quo will eventually lead to ‘peaceful separation,'” he said.

McDevitt said there are those that think Xi Jinping wants to be remembered as the party secretary that finally resolves the Taiwan question. “Taiwan is always going to be just a hundred miles of the coast of China, it will never be towed out to the mid-Pacific,” he said.

“The basic U.S. policy on reunification is straightforward,” he said. If the people of Taiwan decide in favor of it, “that is fine, but in the meanwhile, any attempts by the mainland to unify through coercion or outright aggression might result in U.S. military intervention,” said McDevitt. “Given the economic clout and military capability of the mainland, it is hard to imagine that reunification of some sort, a commonwealth for example, will not eventually take place, unless of course, Beijing agrees to let Taiwan declare independence, which in my mind would be the sensible thing for Beijing to do. Taiwan is not going anywhere.”

The Biden administration has signaled its support for Taiwan. State Department Spokesman Ned Price said on Jan. 21, “The United States notes with concern the pattern of ongoing PRC attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan. We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives. We will stand with friends and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security, and values in the Indo-Pacific region — and that includes deepening our ties with democratic Taiwan.

“The United States will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan,” Price said. “The United States maintains its longstanding commitments as outlined in the Three Communiqués, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the Six Assurances. We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability. Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.”