Taiwan-China: A Timeline of Tensions in 2024 – Newsweek

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Taiwan President Lai Ching-te faced China’s largest-scale military exercises in nearly two years during his first week in office, with one analyst telling Newsweek she expects more to follow.

“This is the exercise season, so I expect more military drills around Taiwan intended to intimidate and warn the new Lai administration against pursuing independence actions,” Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the Indo-Pacific Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Newsweek.

China says Taiwan is its territory, although the Chinese Communist Party has never governed there. Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to unify his nation with the island by force if necessary.

Following is a list of the most notable flare-ups in tensions across the Taiwan Strait so far this year.

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MAY

China’s People’s Liberation Army naval and artillery units encircled the island during the May 23-24 drills, in what officials said was a warning to “Taiwan independence separatist forces.”

Lai is a member of the China-skeptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), like his predecessor, Tsai Ing-wen. He said in his May 20 inaugural speech that the “Republic of China” (Taiwan’s official name) is a “sovereign, independent nation,” words certain to rankle Beijing.

China has said it would declare war if Taiwan declared official independence.

“If Lai really wants to resume Cross-Strait dialogue, he should return to the political basis of the 1992 Consensus,” Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the U.S., told Newsweek.

From left, former Taiwan Premier Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan President Lai Ching-te and Chinese President Xi Jinping are pictured. China staged major military drills around Taiwan just days after Lai called his country a “sovereign, independent…
From left, former Taiwan Premier Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan President Lai Ching-te and Chinese President Xi Jinping are pictured. China staged major military drills around Taiwan just days after Lai called his country a “sovereign, independent nation” in his inaugural address earlier this month.

Photo illustration by Newsweek/Getty

The “1992 Consensus” is a term coined years later for a meeting in which Chinese and Taiwan officials agreed there is only “one China.” Which side of the strait was the real China was left open to interpretation.

Liu said that regardless of who occupies Taipei’s Presidential Office Building, it will not change “the basic pattern and direction of development of cross-Straits relations, nor stop the historical trend of the eventual reunification of the motherland.”

On Thursday, 38 Chinese warplanes were detected over the Taiwan Strait, with all but 10 crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, a de facto maritime boundary between the two countries.

In 2020, China dropped its unspoken policy of largely keeping to its side, following visits to Taiwan by high-ranking Trump Cabinet officials. China has since conducted over 5,000 sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, which analysts say is meant to wear down responding Taiwanese air assets and demoralize Taipei.

February

On February 14, two Chinese fishermen died when their speedboat capsized while being pursued by Taiwanese authorities for allegedly trespassing in restricted waters.

The incident happened near Kinmen, a heavily fortified Taiwanese county situated just off China’s coast that was shelled by Chinese forces.

Beijing condemned Taiwan for the fishermen’s deaths. On February 19, China’s coast guard boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat, reviewing passengers’ travel documents for half an hour.

China has also responded by making its coast guard patrols the new normal around Kinmen, including brief forays into what Taiwan considers to be restricted waters.

While coast guard vessels are less threatening than warships, China’s move to change the status quo around Kinmen could leave Taiwanese authorities with “little room for concessions, Tzu-chieh Hung, an associate research fellow at a Taiwanese think tank, the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, previously told Newsweek.

January

Lai, whom Beijing had labeled a “destroyer of peace across the Taiwan Strait,” won the January 13 presidential election with 40 percent of the vote and handed the DPP an unprecedented third term.

He was aided by a divided opposition, with New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih and former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je splitting the vote with shares of 33 and 26 percent, respectively.

In a diplomatic coup for China, the Pacific island nation of Nauru announced it was switching official ties from Taipei to Beijing, becoming the 10th Taiwan ally to do so during Tsai’s two terms as president. This left only a dozen countries maintaining official ties with Taipei.

“Beijing also may poach one of Taiwan’s 12 remaining diplomatic allies, if there is one that is willing to be bought off,” Glaser said.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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