Chinese jets and warships carried out exercises near Taiwan and into the Western Pacific on Thursday, as the self-ruled island's defense minister warned of a growing threat from its giant neighbor.
Democratic Taiwan is increasingly concerned over China's military designs, especially recent rounds of Chinese drills near Taiwan. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take control of what it deems a wayward province.
China has two missions in a war with Taiwan. Getting ashore in force by air and sea assault; and delaying an American response long enough for China to get ashore in force. Achieve the latter and the cost of American intervention goes up, making it less likely America will intervene.
Remember, China doesn't have to defeat America in order to conquer Taiwan. China just has to keep the war a China-Taiwan fight long enough to defeat Taiwan. So delaying our intervention is a priority task for the Chinese military in plans to capture Taiwan.
Practicing large-scale operations is obviously one way to make the invasion threat more credible. One reason people tend to say China can't invade is that it would cost China too much to invade. Which is different than saying China "can't" invade.
My position has long been that China can invade and win if they are willing to endure the casualties. Exercises that make the PLA better will reduce casualties--and so perhaps drop the price China would have to pay to win below the no-go level.
And operating in the western Pacific puts China in the position to delay American forces approaching Taiwan.
Less obviously, if China makes these exercises--at the end of non-typhoon season--more routine while making them bigger and more comprehensive, China dulls Taiwanese reaction to such drills.
In time, those routine exercises can provide a cover for mobilizing forces for an actual "bolt from the blue" invasion that minimizes the time Taiwan and their primary allies America and Japan have to react to deter or defeat an invasion.
And if China wraps up their conquest by the end of April, an American-led counter-attack is the operation that could be thrown off by typhoons roaring through the area.
I really don't know why Russia doesn't prop up Taiwanese defenses. You'd think the Russians, who have a lot of former Chinese territory, would like the top priority of China's list of territories to be restored to Chinese authority to remain stuck on Taiwan as long as possible so Russia's Far East doesn't rise to the top of the list.