In this atmosphere, we want to ensure that we are very clear about what we are talking about when we talk about Taiwan, and Taiwanese airspace. So our first story today explains exactly where the Chinese war planes have been flying. They have not been flying over the actual island of Taiwan, as some of the breathier news stories may lead one to think.
Since October 1, China has sent an unusually large number of military planes into the airspace near Taiwan. According to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND), a “total of 149 Chinese aircraft entered Taiwan’s ADIZ” (air defense identification zone) between October 1 and 4, Focus Taiwan reports.
56 ADIZ incursions were reported on October 4, the largest number in a single day since September 2020, when the MND began publicly releasing statistics.
What it looks like on a map
Taiwan’s ADIZ is not the same as its sovereign airspace — a much tighter area reaching 12 nautical miles from its coast — and crossing into it does not mean these aircraft crossed the “median line” of the Taiwan Strait, either. Instead, China’s aircraft all flew around the median line and into the southwestern part of Taiwan’s ADIZ, the “airspace where the island’s authorities assert the right to tell entering planes to identify themselves and their purpose,” the New York Times reports. Some aircraft then continued on to the southeastern part of Taiwan’s ADIZ, as you can see in this map:
Reaction to the Chinese air force activity
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén) weighed in with an essay in Foreign Affairs today (although the essay had been commissioned before the latest fly-bys):
“Beijing is replacing its commitment to a peaceful resolution with an increasingly aggressive posture,” Tsai claimed. “Since 2020, People’s Liberation Army aircraft and vessels have markedly increased their activity in the Taiwan Strait, with almost daily intrusions into Taiwan’s southern air defense identification zone, as well as occasional crossings of the tacit median line between the island and the Chinese mainland.”
The U.S. State Departmentsaid on October 3 that it was “very concerned” about China’s “provocative military activity near Taiwan.”
China has given no official comment or explanation of the military activity, and a Foreign Ministry statement (in English, Chinese) focused instead on responding to what it called the “irresponsible remarks” of the State Department.
Why the surge now?
One possibility is that China is reacting to “the arrival of an armada east of the island comprising ships from the U.S., U.K., and four other countries” — France, the Netherlands, Canada, and New Zealand — for military exercises, per the Wall Street Journal.
A drone light show went terribly wrong last week during a night event in celebration of China’s National Day on October 1, organized by a shopping complex in Zhengzhou, Hunan Province.
The show began smoothly with a swarm of quadcopters, lit up with blue lights, rising into the sky and forming the name of the shopping center.
But a few minutes later, dozens of them suddenly broke formation and plummeted to the ground.
In videos (in Chinese) shared on social media, viewers can be seen running away from the falling drones and looking for cover while screaming in terror.
Some clips from the event show the out-of-control drones smashing into cars on the streets. A witness told a local TV news crew (in Chinese) that about 5,000 people, many of them children, were at the scene. Miraculously, nobody was hurt, according to the Beijing News (in Chinese).
Why drone shows?
Hailed as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fireworks, drone light shows are having a big moment in China, as businesses and local governments use them for promotional campaigns and celebrations.
Beijing Lights is a column written by Huang Chenkuang, published by the Beijing-based literary arts collective Spittoon, in which she tells the stories of the marginalized from their point of view. The latest installment is a story about a retired cat lady in Beijing, Aunt Wang, who reflects on her humble life and what it means, for her, to be happy.
Who made me love cats so much? No matter how exhausting it is, when I see them I don’t feel tired anymore.
Over the years, whenever a cat dies, I try to find a place to properly bury it. I try to hold a small ceremony, and ask Buddha to give it better fortune in the next life.
Perhaps it is a reward for feeding the cats: life has been good to me.
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