“The military threat is more credible than 20 years ago”

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Dozens of Chinese military planes and ships entered Taiwan’s air defense zone on Friday, the second day of Beijing’s biggest military drills around the island. Maneuvers that allow Western military experts to study the modernization of the Chinese army.

There is an uproar on the island of Taiwan, which is surrounded on all sides by sites of Chinese military live-fire exercises. The Taiwanese F-16s were thus supposed to take off on Friday, August 5, while 49 Chinese fighter jets entered the island’s air defense zone, according to a press release from the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense. Thirteen Chinese warships have already crossed the center line of the strait that separates the island from mainland China, while several ballistic missiles are said to have been “tested” by Beijing authorities.

This show of strength was presented in response to the visit to Taipei by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the American House of Representatives. Beijing considers the island of Taiwan as an integral part of its territory, which must be returned voluntarily or by force to the national fold. These exercises by the Chinese army, which should continue until noon on Sunday, are an opportunity for Western military experts to study the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait. France 24 spoke on this subject with Professor Alessio Patalano, specialist in maritime strategy in East Asia at King’s College London.

Are China’s current military exercises helping to determine Beijing’s ability to launch an invasion of Taiwan? ?

It is clear that China’s military capabilities are gradually improving. If we compare with the previous exercises, in 1995-1996 and in the early 2000s, we can see that the Chinese have higher missiles and that they have increased the quality of their ammunition and military capabilities (…). China’s navy can now deploy more comfortably away from the mainland, off the east coast of Taiwan. But there is a lack of information on China’s capabilities in the submarine domain, due to the lack of open sources.

The military threat is more credible than it was 20 years ago. But it remains difficult to determine whether the Chinese army can really carry out an operation as important as the invasion of Taiwan.

The last high-intensity war involving China began in 1979. Is the Chinese military capable of conducting modern joint operations involving the coordination of naval, air and ground forces?

These exercises will allow us to see to what extent the 2016 military reform, which created five joint command zones, has improved these coordination capacities. At first glance, it seems that way.

But that also doesn’t mean that this coordination will be perfect from start to finish. These Chinese military exercises last several days, while a military operation to invade Taiwan takes longer. As seen in Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine, there is a fundamental difference between a plan on a piece of paper and a test on the ground.

Taiwan is short of pilots for its fleet of F-16 fighter jets, according to a recent Bloomberg survey, which noted that repeated incursions by Chinese jets have slowed training programs. the pilot. Could these Chinese military exercises damage Taiwan’s military capabilities? ?

It’s not necessary. The pilots’ problem was first linked to a period of transition between two strategic postures. By mid-2010, Taiwan wanted to transition from a conscript army to a volunteer-dominated professional force. They turned it back a bit, mainly because the example of Ukraine shows that a system with territorial defense and armed civilians can be a deterrent.

These transition periods cost money and create imbalances – such as a lack of pilots at any given time. But the Taiwanese know this and will eventually solve the problem.

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