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Explained: Why Chinese military jets flew into Taiwan’s defence zone

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China’s heightened activity could also be a message for the AUKUS alliance. Besides, traditional rival US, China is now up against a proactive UK, with its formidable navy. The latest Chinese incursion happened just after a British military vessel crossed the Taiwan strait on October 4 for the first time since 2008. 

Explained: Why Chinese military jets flew into Taiwan’s defence zone
Taiwan on October 3 announced that 77 military planes from China had trespassed into its air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over two days. The country had first reported the incursion of 38 military aircraft on October 1 and an additional 39 aircraft on October 2.
The ADIZ is airspace that is usually located outside the sovereign airspace of a country where aircraft are identified, located and flight patterns controlled for defence against possible attacks. The concept emerged during the Cold War when military aircraft became capable of flying at high speeds and the possibility of aircraft with nuclear weapons breaching the sovereign airspace at rapid speed became a real threat.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence also said the aircraft included H-6 bombers, which can carry nuclear payloads, and Y-8, anti-submarine warning aircraft. In response, the Taiwanese forces scrambled their own jets, issued radio warnings and armed its air defence missile systems, the Ministry added. The sorties were conducted near Pratas Island, and in the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan and the Philippines.
"China has been wantonly engaged in military aggression, damaging regional peace," Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters on October 2.
Why did Chinese jets fly into Taiwanese defence zone?
This is not the first time that China has flown jets into Taiwan. On previous occasions, China has stated that it has conducted such sorties for reasserting its sovereignty over Taiwan and to target “collusion” between the US and Taiwan.
The country had previously sent a sortie of 28 planes into Taiwanese airspace in June, with smaller incursions being reported as well. Though more incursions have happened, the Taiwanese ministry only started publishing reports about incursions last year.
The incursions are seen as a show of force and a tactical manoeuvre from China, which has been increasing its aggression in the South China Sea as a whole and towards Taiwan in general.
The sorties are beneficial domestically as promulgating the Chinese official stance of Taiwan being a breakaway province that may one day be retaken by force if necessary. They also have the added benefit of signalling China’s strength in the region to its rivals, mainly Taiwan and the US. The sorties also provide the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Air Force more intelligence about the response from Taiwan in case the sorties were to progress into actual attacks.
"Xi Jinping has instructed the PLA to heighten its readiness and prepare for war fighting under 'realistic fighting conditions.' Hence, it is relatively unsurprising that the PLA continues to fly into Taiwan's ADIZ as part of realistic training and preparation for armed conflict," Derek Grossman, senior defence analyst, RAND Corporation policy think tank, told CNN.
Why are China and Taiwan at loggerheads?
The political tension between the two countries began in 1949 as a direct result of the Chinese Civil War. After the Japanese exited the mainland and ceased their occupation of various islands, the various factions in control of China reignited their struggle to control the vast nation. Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) eventually emerged victorious while the previously ruling Kuomintang party (KMT) under Chiang Kai-shek was defeated and had to retreat to Taiwan.
While the CCP would likely have invaded Taiwan once it had managed to build up a navy, any such move was blocked by the US.
As a result, the People’s Republic of China claims itself to be the only Chinese government, and Taiwan, which it refers to as Chinese Taipei, as part of its sovereign territory. Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, at the same time considers itself to be an independent and separate nation.
The geopolitical absurdity of Taiwan’s existence has also resulted in the nation not being officially recognised by most of the nations in the world, even as it enjoys a considerable diplomatic presence in other countries.
Will China go to war with Taiwan?
While Chinese President Xi Jinping has not ruled out war with Taiwan in order to reclaim its territory, war is not likely anytime soon.
"I don't think there is a high or even medium probability of a Chinese attack or invasion of Taiwan," Grossman told CNN. "The PLA still has many vulnerabilities, especially when faced with the near-certain intervention of the United States with possibly -- probably? -- Japanese and Australian support," he added.
"China understands the severe downsides of a failed attack or invasion of Taiwan and will probably continue to bide its time."
With the newly-formed AUKUS alliance, China may also face the possibility of UK intervention with its considerable navy then being present in the strategic and tense South China Sea. It is perhaps not surprising that the Chinese incursions happened just after a British military vessel crossed the Taiwan strait on October 4 for the first time since 2008.
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