China’s navy will hold live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait today, the first such exercises since September 2015. The manoeuvres were announced suddenly without official explanation amid promotions of Chinese naval power and growing tensions with Taiwan.
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have soured since the 2015 drills. Taiwan’s 2016 election empowered the Democratic Progressive Party, which supports independence from China; Beijing sees the island as sovereign territory that eventually must fully reunify with the mainland.
Especially angering Chinese leaders are developments that have seen Taiwan grow closer to the US. This year, Washington approved measures to encourage US officials to visit the island, as well as submarine technology sharing agreements. Additionally, newly minted National Security Adviser John Bolton is a well-known advocate for stronger military ties with Taiwan.
Beijing has billed the drills as the largest of their kind in modern Chinese history, and are no doubt intended to serve as a warning to Taipei. Over 30% of Taiwanese exports go to China, the island’s top trade partner. Beijing could consider retaliatory measures or boost its regular military presence in the strait if Taipei flirts too much with independence—or Washington.
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Nicholas is an Italian politics aficionado. Nick brings his knowledge of southern Europe to bear in The Daily Brief team, where he serves as a senior analyst and editor.