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Striking distance: China arms up along the Taiwan Strait

Since February China's Eastern Theater Command has inducted several new military platforms including multiple launch rocket systems, propelled mortars, and armoured fighting vehicles. (China MND, state media, and social media)

The People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) and PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) are increasing their presence along the Taiwan Strait to pressurise Taiwanese pro-independence developments and deter foreign actors from explicitly supporting the island.

National reunification is a core tenet of the Communist Party of China's (CPC's) political strategy. To help achieve this, the PLA has deployed several ground force components to exert pressure on Taiwan and the United States, the island's primary supplier of military equipment.

A result of this buildup is rising tensions. The US is bolstering its political and military support for Taiwan, angering Beijing. US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner said in a March 2022 congressional testimony that “Taiwan is the pacing scenario”. He added, “We aim to deter and deny [China's] aggression through a combination of Taiwan's own defences, its partnership with the United States, and growing support from like-minded democracies.”

Beijing considers Taiwan to be a renegade province that will eventually be reunited with the mainland, by military means if necessary. Chinese officials have said that US interference in Taiwan is a ‘red line' for China and that the island's independence would compromise peace and security in the Taiwan Strait. The White House's position is that it is opposed to “unilateral changes to the status quo by either side”.

As part of China's response to the growing tensions, the PLA Eastern Theater Command (ETC) has ramped up operations, including the deployment of several ground force components along the Taiwan Strait.

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