China could be taking a leaf out of Russia‘s playbook by trialling a new directive which would expand the use of its burgeoning military for ‘non-war’ purposes.
The directive, signed by President Xi Jinping, raises concerns Beijing could be paving the way for an invasion of Taiwan under the misnomer of a ‘special military operation’.
Coming in into effect on Wednesday, the directive could provide Beijing with the cover it needs to launch an assault on Taipei without the legal complications or international condemnation that comes with declaring war.
Xinhua news agency said the document will provide ‘the legal basis for troops to carry out military operations other than war’, such as peacekeeping operations, disaster relief and humanitarian efforts.
The directive has not been published in full but it aims to maintain ‘national sovereignty … regional stability and regulating the organisation and implementation of non-war military operations’.
Russia invaded its neighbour Ukraine – a relationship with eerie parallels to the one between China and Taiwan – under the pretext of a ‘special military operation’ that fell short of a declared war. It is punishable by 15 years in jail in Russia to call the invasion a war.
But just as Ukraine has proven to be a very prickly porcupine against the Russian bear, Taiwan has warned China that it has the capacity to hit back in retaliation for any hostile military intervention in the Taiwan Strait.
Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has signed a directive that permits ‘the legal basis for troops to carry out military operations other than war’, such as peacekeeping operations, disaster relief and humanitarian efforts, but could be used as a cover for an invasion of Taiwan
Taiwan has warned that its domestically produced Yun Feng supersonic cruise missile (pictured) can reach Beijing
The China-Solomon Islands security pact could see Chinese military ships dock on Australia’s doorstep (pictured: The guided-missile frigate Nantong of the escort taskforce leaves a military port in Zhoushan, China in May)
A carrier-based J-15 fighter jet takes off from the Chinese Navy’s Liaoning aircraft-carrier during open-sea combat training
The narrow waterway that separates Taiwan and mainland China is a perennial flashpoint, with Beijing often reacting angrily to passages by foreign warships
You Si Kun, president of the Legislative Assembly, said that its domestically produced Yun Feng supersonic cruise missile can reach Beijing. The threat came in response to claims the Taiwan Strait is not international waters.
The Communist nation has been asserting ‘sovereignty’ and ‘jurisdiction’ over the international waters of the Taiwan Strait, as well as taking another big step towards building a military base on the Solomon Islands, a country less than 2000km from Australia’s coast.
Australian Policy Institute senior analyst Malcolm Davis warned the expansion to the Solomon Islands was China’s next step in asserting its presence in the Pacific.
The combination of moves once again seems to set the Asian behemoth of 1.4 billion people on a collision course with the US and its allies in the region and across the world.
You outlined Taiwanese plans to develop a more self-sufficient military to prepare for a potential conflict with its superpower neighbour who increasingly seems to have brazen designs on conquest of the island.
He compared Taiwan to Ukraine in its defiant will to defend its sovereignty, and insisted they should prepare for what could be an inevitable invasion.
The military directive ‘has political implication toward Taiwan,’ said Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing.
‘The reunification with Taiwan is one of the basics of why Xi will go on to a third term,’ he said, adding that the directive is the latest step in China’s effort to outline what its strategy will be on Taiwan during Mr Xi’s third term in office.
China’s ruling Communist Party has never governed Taiwan, a self-governing democracy in the shadow of its giant autocratic neighbour.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong, right, poses for a photo with Samoa’s Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa in Apia, Samoa on June 2. Ms Wong has also met with Cook Islands leaders
China’s security agreement with the Solomon Islands could see military bases built by Beijing within 2,000km of Australia
But Mr Xi has made China’s stated ‘re-unification’ with Taiwan part of his public mission.
The Yun Feng cruise missile is believed to have begun development after the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis when missile tests were carried out by the People’s Republic of China.
It had been believed that the missiles originally had a range of 600 miles but the updated version has an estimated range of 1,200 miles, putting Beijing in its sights.
Beijing is located around 1,150 miles from Taiwan.
The narrow waterway that separates Taiwan and mainland China is a perennial flashpoint, with Beijing often reacting angrily to passages by foreign warships.
The United States and other countries view the Strait as international waters open to all.
In recent years Western warships have sailed through the strait, drawing Beijing’s anger.
But on Monday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said ‘China has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait’.
‘It is a false claim when certain countries call the Taiwan Strait ‘international waters’ in order to find a pretext for manipulating issues related to Taiwan and threatening China’s sovereignty and security,’ he added.
Although the Taiwanese government is not actively anticipating an impending invasion, China has flown warplanes near the island almost daily for the past few months.
China’s defence minister, Wei Fenghe, recently said that Beijing would ‘not hesitate to start a war’ if Taiwan declared independence.
Ukrainian servicemen fire with a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun Caesar towards Russian positions at a front line in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas
Ukraine has been valiantly fending off the invasion of its much larger neighbour in a desperate rearguard struggle that many observers feel may harbour similarities to a future invasion of Taiwan by China
The Russian war strategy has been to carpet bomb Ukrainian cities (pictured: what is left of the eastern town of Pryvillya) inch by inch with artillery
Current fighting is centred around the city of Severodonetsk in the Donbas region, with a pre-war population of 100,000
Further south, the Solomon Islands and China recently signed a security pact that would see troops from the communist superpower deployed in the Pacific nation in a peacekeeping role.
The agreement also included provisions that Chinese ships can dock and refuel in the Solomon Islands and that China could take an active role in regional instabilities and securing shipping routes.
Critics have claimed a military base could be secretly built piece by piece – first with troops, then small ships, larger ships, and infrastructure – and that this was China’s underlying intention.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong will visit the Solomon Islands on Friday, her third Pacific trip since being sworn in last month.
She previously called the Solomon Islands-China security pact the Australian government’s ‘biggest foreign policy failure since WWII’.
Senator Wong said her trip to New Zealand and the Solomons will reinforce Australia’s ‘close friendships and cooperation in our region’.
The regional agreement has raised concerns among Australia and its allies, which argues regional security should remain in the remit of the ‘Pacific family’.
Indo-Pacific security remained a key focus on the dialogue with United States Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin addressing US Indo-Pacific defence policy at the Shangri La security dialogue held in Singapore over the weekend.