Chart of the Day: How is this PLA exercise different compared to 1996?
Updated 19:47, 07-Aug-2022

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducted military exercises including live firing on the waters and in the airspace surrounding Taiwan island from Thursday to Sunday.

The exercises took place in the waters and airspace off the northern, southwestern and eastern coasts of the island.

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More than 10 destroyers and frigates conducted joint blockade operations in the waters around the island, while a number of frigates, missile ships and ground-to-ship missile units engaged in simulated assaults aimed at major maritime targets.

The theater command's air force corps deployed multiple types of warplanes, including fighters and bombers, as well as early warning and electronic reconnaissance planes, on missions such as reconnaissance, airspace control, support and cover, and airstrikes.

Comparing with the Taiwan Straits crisis in 1996, the PLA's military strength has been greatly enhanced, analysts say.

According to Meng Xiangqing, a professor at the National Defense University of the PLA, there are several changes from the 1995-1996 exercises, which were mainly aimed at a series of "Taiwan independence" activities when former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui visited the U.S in 1995.

For one thing, this current exercise was mainly close to Taiwan island, while the 1995-1996 exercise was mainly on the coastal line close to the mainland.

Besides, the strength and intensity are much higher than at that time. The current exercise can be said to be the strongest, the most intense, and the most deterrent among the Taiwan Straits exercises. For example, the PLA's live-firing tests crossed Taiwan island for the first time, passing through an airspace where U.S. Patriot missiles were densely deployed.

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Also, it was the first time the PLA has organized a deterrent exercise of an aircraft carrier formation and built a three-dimensional combat platform at sea.

"The PLA Navy has made remarkable progress since 1995 and 1996. It's actually mind-staggering how quickly the PLA Navy has built itself up," said David Finkelstein, a retired U.S. Army officer and the director of China and Indo-Pacific security affairs at the CNA, an independent research institute, in an interview with CNBC.

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