China rehearses Taiwan invasion as Beijing and Russia hold naval drill

China rehearses invasion of Taiwan with troops storming ‘sea defences’ in chilling wargames – while Beijing and Russia stage joint naval exercises in the Pacific

  • The PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command published the clip on WeChat yesterday
  • Eastern Theatre Command is division responsible for monitoring Taiwan Strait 

A division of China’s People’s Liberation Army that oversees the Taiwan Strait has released a video which appears to show its troops practising a coastal invasion of the self-governing island.

The PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command published the clip, which features a montage of soldiers storming beaches and driving tanks on dirt roads to a country-style Chinese ballad, on WeChat yesterday. 

Though the post did not directly mention Taiwan, the Eastern Theatre Command regularly conducts military drills in the Taiwan Strait. 

Meanwhile, the song featured in the video and the accompanying WeChat post were littered with evocative lyrics and phrases like ‘go over the city gate and the high wall’ and ‘no matter how dark it is, don’t be afraid… chase and win the warmest years’.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees Taiwan as a renegade province to be brought back under Beijing’s control – something the authoritarian president Xi Jinping has said he’s willing to do by force. 

But Taiwan’s elected Democratic Progressive Party steadfastly argues it presides over a self-governing, democratic, capitalist society with overwhelming support from its people. 

It comes as Russia and China also launched warships to conduct patrols in the Pacific Ocean and perform rescue training and drills for countering air strikes, Moscow’s defence ministry said Friday. 

The PLA’s Eastern Theatre Command published the clip, which features a montage of soldiers storming beaches and driving tanks on dirt roads to a country-style Chinese ballad, on WeChat yesterday

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees Taiwan as a renegade province to be brought back under Beijing’s control

The clip featured soldiers storming beaches and driving tanks as a fleet of helicopters roared overhead

Video released by Russian state news agency TASS showed nine large vessels sailing in a diamond formation as crew members stood to attention on deck.

The drills also included practising the ‘replenishment of fuel reserves by ships and the transfer of cargo on the go’, the defence ministry said, adding that the joint detachment of ships had covered more than 6,400 nautical miles since the start of the exercises.

‘A detachment of ships of the Russian Navy and the PLA Navy is currently operating in the waters of the East China Sea,’ said the ministry, referring to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

‘During this period, the sailors of the two countries conducted anti-submarine exercises, repulsed an air strike by a mock enemy, conducted rescue training at sea, and perfected the skills of taking off and landing helicopters on the decks of warships,’ the statement read.

Ties between Moscow and Beijing have grown closer in recent years, as prolonged fighting in Ukraine has shattered Russia’s relationship with Western governments.

A Chinese defence ministry spokesperson said Monday that naval fleets of the two countries were conducting maritime patrols in western and northern regions of the Pacific Ocean.

‘These actions are not aimed at a third party and are not related to the current international and regional situation,’ the spokesperson added.

Last month, Taiwan held military and civilian conflict preparedness drills of its own as tensions with Beijing continue to mount.

The Han Kuang defence drills have been held annually since 1984, but this year’s war games were more intense than ever before.

In a blatant show of force ahead of Taiwan’s drills, China sent 37 aircraft and seven navy vessels around the island, according to the defence ministry in Taipei.

Among them were J-10 and J-16 fighters and H-6 bombers, and 22 of the detected warplanes crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait – an unofficial boundary that had been considered a buffer between the island and mainland – or entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

China sent dozens of warplanes, including fighter jets and bombers, toward Taiwan, the island’s Defence Ministry said Saturday, July 22, 2023 (FILE PHOTO: Chinese J-10 fighter jets)

A view of soldiers on top of M60A3 tanks during a drill rehearsal in New Taipei City, Taiwan July 20, 2023

A soldier rappels down a Black Hawk helicopter during a drill rehearsal in New Taipei City, Taiwan July 20, 2023

Self-ruled Taiwan holds frequent defence drills for its military, but the Han Kuang preparation efforts also extend to its civilian population, with authorities stepping up drills in cities, citing lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine where the street-to-street warfare appears to be part of the defence strategy playbook.

Residents in seven counties across northern Taiwan were subjected to emergency scenarios as part of Taiwan’s ‘Wan An’ air defence exercises, which translates to ‘everlasting peace’.

As the sirens sounded in Neihu to signal an incoming missile attack, volunteers guided residents to nearby underground evacuation shelters, where they crouched to the ground and covered their eyes and ears.

In Taipei’s southeastern Nangang district, firefighters simulated putting out a blaze caused by a missile attack on a train station, aiming their hoses at the building, and then rescuing a civilian from it.

Government employee Wu Kai-te, who had hidden in an underground parking lot as part of the drill, said these exercises were necessary because of China’s military threats.

In Taipei’s southeastern Nangang district, firefighters simulated putting out a blaze caused by a missile attack on a train station 

Rescue workers take part in an emergency response exercise for civilians, providing simulation capabilities at the tactical level of war on July 24, 2023 in Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwanese people take cover inside of a basement shelter during a Wanan air raid drill in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, July 24, 2023

‘Taiwan’s international situation is more special because of the China factor,’ the 37-year-old told AFP.

David vs. Goliath: How China and Taiwan’s militaries shape up 

‘It’s very practical for the public and it teaches us the right poses to take to avoid more damage during a missile attack.’

Taiwan’s army, navy and air force are among some of the most highly trained, technologically advanced and well equipped in the world.

But China’s massive population and vast resources mean Beijing’s military holds the advantage across every conceivable metric.

In terms of sheer numbers, China currently maintains a whopping 2 million active service personnel, far outnumbering Taiwan’s comparatively paltry 170,000-180,000 troops, according to the latest 2023 figures published by Global Firepower. 

Taipei does maintain a substantial reservist force, and in December president Tsai Ing Wen announced a revamp of her country’s defence policies to extend mandatory national service and beef up military reserves amid Chinese aggression.

But Beijing’s active service personnel still outnumber Taiwan’s entire military and reserve forces combined. And of course, the CCP has more than 600 million citizens of military age, fit-for-service citizens from which it could theoretically source new troops endlessly.

In the air and sea, it’s the same story.

China’s fleet of military aircraft totals 3,166 of which more than 1,000 are dedicated fighter aircraft, while Taiwan can only muster 737 aircraft in total.

And Beijing can deploy 730 naval vessels, including two huge aircraft carriers from which they can launch aerial assaults, 78 submarines and 50 destroyers. 

Taipei in comparison has just four destroyers and submarines. 

A jet fighter takes off from China’s Shandong aircraft carrier, over Pacific Ocean waters, south of Okinawa prefecture, Japan, in this handout released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan April 10, 2023

Air Defense and Missile Command of Taiwan Air Force takes part in a military exercise, at an undisclosed location in Taiwan in this handout picture provided by Taiwan Defence Ministry and released on April 9, 2023

Beijing’s incessant war games in the Taiwan Strait and Xi’s recent declaration that ‘China will never renounce the right to use force’ to bring the island under the control of the mainland suggest the CCP is laying the groundwork for a military operation.

‘The wheels of history are rolling toward China’s reunification [with Taiwan]’, Xi said in October at the Communist Party Congress. 

And earlier this year Xi made perhaps his strongest statement yet, declaring his military must prepare for ‘real combat’ after it conducted war games in the seas around Taiwan.

China’s leader said the People’s Liberation Army, which is now the second largest force in the world, must conduct ‘military struggles firmly and with flexibility’.

‘You must strengthen real combat military training,’ he said in a statement carried by state news agency Xinhua, adding that the military must ‘resolutely defend China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests, and strive to protect overall peripheral stability’.

Taiwanese and US defence officials have in recent months warned they expect the PLA to be ready to launch an attack on the island well before the end of the decade.

CIA Director William Burns in February claimed US intelligence suggests Xi has instructed his country’s military to ‘be ready by 2027’ to invade Taiwan.

‘We do know, as has been made public, that President Xi has instructed the PLA, the Chinese military leadership, to be ready by 2027 to invade Taiwan, but that doesn’t mean that he’s decided to invade in 2027 or any other year as well,’ Burns told CBS’ ‘Face the Nation.’

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu have since concurred with the Director’s assessment. 

But for all of Xi’s posturing and declarations that Beijing will not renounce the right to use force to ‘reunite’ the island with the mainland, China has shown in recent decades it is very reluctant to fight a war.   

Beijing last engaged in a large-scale military operation in Vietnam in 1979 which failed just as the US effort had four years prior – and the CCP has plenty to lose in a war with Taiwan.

The conflict would be widely condemned by its Western trading partners, and Xi has the hindsight of watching the damaging economic response levied by Western powers on Russia following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

And launching an invasion would run the risk of triggering a military response from the only world power whose armed forces have the might to overcome the sheer size of the People’s Liberation Army – the United States.

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