In 2020, the Chinese military violated Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) more times than in any year since 1996, with the majority observed in the southwest corner of the ADIZ, according to a recent government-funded report.
In a 2020 report on China, specifically the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR) said from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30. the Chinese military breached the ADIZ for a total of 91 days. Last year also saw the highest frequency of long-distance training missions by China's military around Taiwan ever, the INDSR said, citing just six and 20 missions in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
During the "Taiwan Strait missile crisis" in 1996, China conducted a series of ballistic missile tests in the waters around Taiwan in the run-up to the country's first direct presidential election. According to Defense Ministry spokesman Shih Shun-wen (史順文) in a recent interview, the PLA flew about 380 sorties into the southwest ADIZ in 2020, a trend that has not been observed in the past.
According to the INDSR, the Chinese intrusions are connected to the frequency of U.S. military activities in the area, and also a warning over the recent warming of relations between Taiwan and the United States. In the report, the research institute said there could be several reasons, one of which is that China is testing Taiwan's military response, as the median line that separates the two countries does not extend into the southwest ADIZ.
The PLA's actions are also an effort to increase its presence in an attempt to expand China's sphere of influence, the institute said. Another reason, according to the INDSR, is to intimidate the Taiwanese military as well as exert pressure on its defenses in the Taiwan-controlled Dongsha Islands in the South China Sea.
An important factor to consider is that China is actively using its anti-submarine aircraft to collect underwater and other related information in the area, which is the main passageway for vessels and submarines entering the western Pacific, it said. Meanwhile, the PLA is also hoping to deter both Taiwanese and American submarine activities in the region.
The INDSR concluded that in the long-term, the intrusions could offer Taiwan certain advantages, with one being the increased legitimacy of U.S. sales of offensive weapons to Taiwan.