Meanwhile, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood has said China’s announcement last month was indicative of Beijing’s strategy of pushing the boundaries as part of an expansionist, and increasingly belligerent, foreign policy. Tensions over Taiwan have risen sharply in recent months, and a satellite image published today suggested a Chinese military training ground in Inner Mongolia even features full-scale replicas of targets such as the Presidential Office Building.
Last month Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Webin denied the existence of the median line, which he said was a construct of the US military without any actual substance.
Derek Grossman, Senior Defense Analyst at the RAND Corporation specialising in China, told Express.co.uk: “China is increasingly threatening Taiwan with military force.
“In the last couple of weeks, it sent dozens of military aircraft across the median line, which had been traditionally accepted as the dividing line in the Taiwan Strait by both sides, and even announced that it no longer recognised the line.”
Taiwan is ready to defend itself against invasion
Taiwan soldiers during a military drill to simulate defending one of its beaches
Such a move was significant because it marked a departure from long-established conventions, Mr Grossman said.
He explained: “Tensions are certainly worsening, not only because of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s reelection in January 2020 (she does not recognise the ‘1992 Consensus’ upholding ‘One China’), but also because the Trump administration has sent senior level officials to the island – including Secretary of HHS Alex Azar and Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Keith Krach – in violation, from Beijing’s perspective, of Washington’s One China Policy.
“These visits are unacceptable for Beijing because they treat Taiwan as a sovereign nation, whereas China has traditionally viewed Taiwan as a renegade province of the mainland.”
Taiwan helicopters patrol the skies
Mr Grossman added: “Going forward, I still assess the likelihood that China would seek to invade Taiwan as exceptionally low, but that probability has been ticking up these last few years.
“My main concern is that as US-China competition continues to ramp up and bilateral relations spiral to their lowest point perhaps ever, that Beijing will come to believe that Washington does, in fact, seek to use Taiwan to ‘contain’ China, and thus action is required to reverse the unfavourable trend.
“I certainly don’t think Xi wants war, and neither does Trump, but it will be increasingly difficult for China to sit on the sidelines as US-Taiwan relations reach new heights – primarily with the common goal of pushing back against China.”
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A Taiwan cannon pointing out to sea
A Taiwanese F-16 jet
Looking past the critical November 3 vote, he added: “I’m doubtful that the US presidential election will fundamentally change this dynamic.
“Under Biden, there is likely to be a dialing back of harsh rhetoric against Beijing, but there is also a bipartisan consensus in Congress and whole of government approach to compete with and counter China at every turn, including in the Taiwan Strait, that will be very difficult if not impossible to undo.”
Mr Ellwood is the chairman of Parliament’s Defence Committee as well as being a member of its China Research Group and MP for Bournemouth West.
Taiwanese rocket launchers during a military drill
He told Express.co.uk the announcement in respect of the median line was part of a wider strategy.
Mr Ellwood added: “It is a gradual erosion of international norms.
“What they do is bring out old maps, or throw in clearly unapproved and unrecognised protocols.
Taiwan helicopters take part in military exercises
“They then repeat these often enough and assume that everybody will accept them.
“There is no Western determination to come to terms with China’s long-term strategy.
“We are in denial – I think there is still a romantic idea that China will mature into this internationally responsible democracy.”