China flexes its military muscles almost daily in the Taiwan Strait. Now 21 Chinese military aircraft have been spotted around Taiwan. Taiwan’s new president is calling on Beijing to end the practice. You can read more about the conflict between China and Taiwan in the ticker.

Monday, May 27, 2024, 7:19 a.m.: Taiwan says it has again discovered dozens of Chinese military aircraft and ships near the island. The Ministry of Defense in Taipei said on Monday that 21 aircraft and 15 ships from the Navy and Coast Guard were spotted in the past 24 hours. Ten aircraft entered Taiwan’s air surveillance zone. 

China held a two-day major exercise near Taiwan last week. According to Taipei, China deployed 111 aircraft and dozens of naval vessels in its demonstration of power.

Taiwan separated from communist mainland China at the end of the civil war 75 years ago. Since then, Beijing has viewed the island as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland – if necessary with military force.

Since 2016, China has massively increased political and military pressure on Taiwan and is sending fighter jets and warships near the island almost every day, even outside of maneuvers.

Thursday, May 23, 2024, 7 a.m.: A few days after the inauguration of the new president in Taiwan, China announced a large-scale military exercise around the East Asian island republic. “This is also a severe punishment for the separatist forces of Taiwan independence and a serious warning against interference and provocation by external forces,” said spokesman for the East Chapter of the People’s Liberation Army, Marine Colonel Li Xi, on Thursday. The army, navy, air force and the missile forces would hold exercises on Thursday and Friday in the strait between China and Taiwan (Taiwan Strait), which is around 130 kilometers wide at its narrowest point, and around Taiwan. The exercise is expected to be the largest in about a year.  

According to the information, the military wants to train joint combat readiness on water and in the air as well as attacks on key targets. Ships and planes would approach Taiwan from the north and south for “patrols” and would also come close to several islands, such as the island of Kinmen, just a few kilometers from mainland China. 

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry condemned the military exercise as an “irrational provocation” that threatened peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The armed forces on sea, on the ground and in the air were deployed to “defend freedom and democracy with practical actions,” Taipei said. The ministry did not provide further details about the measures.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province, although independent and democratically elected governments have been in power there for decades. The leadership in Beijing has threatened several times to use military force to unite the island, which has a population of more than 23 million, and the mainland. In addition to regular exercises by the armed forces, fighter jets fly towards Taiwan almost every day to demonstrate the military power of the People’s Liberation Army.

The background to the now announced exercise is likely to be the inauguration of the newly elected Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te on Monday. His Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election in January and supports Taiwan’s independence. The ruling Communist Party in Beijing accuses the DPP of separatism.

The warning should also apply to Taiwan’s allies and in particular the USA, which has assured the island republic of support in the event of a defense and regularly supplies it with weapons, to the annoyance of Beijing.

1:12 p.m.: China has sharply criticized various countries’ congratulations for the new government in Taiwan. “The wrong words and actions of some countries and politicians violate the one-China principle and basic norms of international relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing on Tuesday. China sees this as interference in internal affairs and damage to territorial integrity. The criticism comes a day after Lai Ching-te was sworn in as Taiwan’s new president. 

On behalf of the United States, Taiwan’s key ally, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent congratulations to Lai. According to the statement, he was pleased to further deepen the “unofficial relationship”. This sent a seriously wrong signal to “the separatist independence forces” in Taiwan, said Wang. The Taiwan issue is a core interest of China and the front red line in US-China relations that must not be crossed. 

Germany was represented at the celebrations on Monday in Taipei with a multi-member Bundestag delegation led by CDU MP Klaus-Peter Willsch and Riesling wine as a gift for Lai. The aim is to make it clear to the people of Taiwan that Germany is at their side and will not leave them alone in their possible struggle for survival, said Willsch in Taipei on Tuesday. “Taiwan is truly a beacon of rule of law and democracy in Asia, which is not a given in the space,” he said.

12:04 p.m.: One day after the inauguration of Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te, thousands of people took to the streets out of concern about a possible erosion of democracy in the East Asian island republic. On Tuesday, people gathered near the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s parliament, to demonstrate against the opposition. The background is controversial draft laws that escalated a parliamentary session last Friday and caused deputies from Lai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition politicians to attack each other – with some injured people ending up in hospital. 

A key reason for the chaos is that the conservative and pro-Beijing Kuomintang and the Taiwan People’s Party voted last Monday in the committee where bills are normally debated and examined to put their views on the drafts directly to a plenary vote, without the individual ones Paragraphs to advise. At the same time, they left out DPP drafts.

Lai won the presidential election on January 13th, but the DPP lost its absolute majority in parliament and now needs approval from the larger opposition bloc for its plans. At the parliamentary session that continued on Tuesday, banners with slogans such as “Hong Kongization in Taiwan” hung from the podium – a reference to the decline of democracy in Hong Kong after the former British colony was returned to the People’s Republic of China. 

“No debates, no democracy,” said demonstrators on posters in front of parliament. “Taiwan is not a normal country. That’s why I’m afraid that Taiwan’s democracy can easily be snatched away, just like in Hong Kong,” said 45-year-old obstetrician Amy Yang to the German Press Agency. The exiled Chinese and democracy activist Wang Dan also drew parallels to Hong Kong in a statement. At the same time, he had confidence in Taiwan’s civil society, said the survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989 to the dpa. 

Tuesday, May 21st, 9:40 a.m.: Lai Ching-te was sworn in as the new president in Taiwan. The liberal business newspaper “Hospodarske noviny” from the Czech Republic wrote on Tuesday:

“Taiwan’s situation is comparable to that of West Berlin during the Cold War. Lai Ching-te takes office as president at a time when there is open discussion of a possible war between China and the United States over Taiwan. That would be something that would significantly change the course of global politics and economics. Two-thirds of world trade passes through the region’s waterways – and Taiwan itself is an irreplaceable producer of the most modern semiconductors. 

Although we in Europe focus on Russian aggression against Ukraine, East Asia remains crucial to global stability. Taiwan’s new president will play an important role in how the situation around the island evolves.”

Monday, May 20th, 7:49 a.m.: Taiwan’s new President Lai Ching-te called on China to end intimidation attempts against the island republic in his inaugural speech. “I would also like to call on China to stop its political and military intimidation against Taiwan,” the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politician, who was sworn in on Monday, told thousands of supporters in Taipei. China should share the responsibility with Taiwan to maintain peace and stability in the strait between the two countries (Taiwan Strait) and the surrounding region.

The future of cross-strait relations between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, would have a crucial impact on the world. His government will neither give in nor provoke and will maintain the status quo, said the 64-year-old politician. This means that Taiwan should remain an independent country.

Sunday, May 19th, 5:31 p.m.: Taiwan’s elected President Lai Ching-te will be inaugurated with his government in the capital Taipei this Monday. The ceremony for the current vice president is scheduled for the morning (local time). Lai succeeds his party colleague Tsai Ing-wen, who is no longer allowed to run after two terms in office. On January 13th, the 64-year-old doctor clearly won the presidential election for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). However, in the parallel parliamentary elections, the center-left party lost its absolute majority and is now dependent on alliances.

The inauguration, including Lai’s speech, is likely to be closely watched, especially by its powerful neighbor China. Beijing sees the DPP and its president as separatist because the party supports Taiwanese independence. The ruling Chinese Communist Party under state and party leader Xi Jinping counts Taiwan as part of its territory and wants to unite it with the mainland – using military means if necessary. Lai has not yet promised an official proclamation of Taiwan’s independence, but has advocated maintaining the status quo – in other words: Taiwan, with its more than 23 million inhabitants, should remain an independent country. 

51 delegations from various countries are expected at the inauguration, including a group from the German Bundestag. As an important ally of Taiwan, the USA is also sending a cross-party group to Taipei, as has been the case at previous inaugurations.

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