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Browbeater boats: Taiwan incursion shows China's propensity for carrierborne intimidations

Chinese J-15 fighter jets waiting on the deck of Liaoning aircraft carrier during military drills in the Bohai Sea in 2016. China has since deployed its aircraft carriers, including Shandong , for various exercises in the Western Pacific region and the South China Sea. (AFP/Getty Images)

On 5 April 2023, one of the People's Liberation Army Navy's (PLAN's) aircraft carriers, Shandong, travelled through the Bashi Channel of the Luzon Strait in the south of Taiwan.

The sail through would have beena routine transit if not for what took place in the days that followed – J-15 fighter aircraft operating from this carrier flew into Taiwan's air-defence identification zone (ADIZ). This is the first known instance in which Chinese carrierborne fighter aircraft have entered this ADIZ.

Shandong's journey through the Bashi Channel also preceded a high-profile meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a renegade province that will eventually be reunited with China, and has often viewed such high-profile meetings with leaders of foreign countries as attempts to legitimise the island's status as an independent country.

Days before Tsai was scheduled to meet with McCarthy, China'sspokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mao Ning indicated that the country “strongly opposed” it and would take “steps to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity” should Washington proceed to facilitate the event.

These “steps” turned out to be a slightly watered-down version of what took place in August 2022 when then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. The People's Liberation Army's (PLA's) Eastern Command began a series of military drills and “combat readiness patrols” dubbed Exercise ‘Joint Sword' on 8 April.

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