Is China’s Xi Administration Gearing Up for a Taiwan Contingency?

Reuters file photo
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at an event on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, Calif., Nov. 15, 2023.

The East China Sea, including Japan’s Nansei Islands, is an area where Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration wants to expand its naval power to assert sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. Xi’s adminisration also wants to realize the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy to deter potential military actions by Japan and the U.S. in the event of an invasion of Taiwan.

Last year, Xi inspected the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese military responsible for the East China Sea and Taiwan and emphasized the need to defend national sovereignty. He instructed the strengthening of military capabilities, underscoring the importance of the maritime region.

China continues to dispatch naval vessels to its unilaterally established ADIZ. This activity aims to create favorable conditions for the nation by making small changes to the status quo become the norm.

Despite signs of improved U.S.-China relations following last year’s summit, observations suggest that China is increasing military pressure on neighboring countries, anticipating a more restrained approach by the U.S. military in the region.

In November of last year, an Australian naval diver engaging in underwater activities in Japan’s exclusive economic zone suffered a minor injury after a Chinese destroyer approached the vessel. It is believed that the diver was injured by sonar pulses issued by the Chinese ship. The Australian government criticized China, but it did not admit fault.

In the South China Sea, where China is involved in a territorial dispute between the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guard vessels escalate provocations by spraying water and engaging in collisions against Philippine patrol vessels and supply ships.

China’s assertive actions are underpinned by confidence in its significantly enhanced naval power. Xi has set the goal of “more quickly elevating the armed forces to world-class standards.” China shows no signs of slowing down its military expansion at it continues to build its own aircraft carriers, destroyers, and other military assets.