China’s Military Buildup: What Does It Mean for Taiwan?

With all the rising tension with the US in the Indo-Pacific or its claim over South China Sea, China has now increased its defence budget by $225 billion, a 7.2 percent high compared to the previous year and the fastest pace in four years. The announcement was made in the NPC National People’s Congress, that is China’s rubber stamp parliament. It is the eighth consecutive year the country has been increasing its defence budget. This military development definitely tells us more than just China’s national security. This is mainly because China is never clear with numbers; it doesn’t break down what numbers are actually spent on what. It also shows how much China prioritises its military spending despite its lower economic growth. China, in its defence, said that its military modernization is not a threat to any country but a positive force.

Presenting the world’s second largest defence budget premier Li Keqiang said “The armed forces should intensify military training and preparedness across the board, develop new military and strategic guidance, devote greater energy to training under combat conditions.”

Taiwan at the gunpoint

China’s recent increase in its defence budget has significant implications for Taiwan. The increase in China’s military budget raises concerns about Beijing’s intentions toward Taiwan. Experts believe China wants to take over Taiwan as soon as possible. Taiwan believes it could be as soon as 2027. China’s warplanes invading Taiwan’s airspace is the new normal. China has long considered Taiwan a renegade province and has vowed to reunify it with the mainland, by force if necessary. Last year Beijing staged war games around Taiwan in the month of August following a visit by US house speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei. This showed the displeasure of Beijing over Western support for Taipei. On March 5, 2023 in the annual meeting of China’s parliament Premier Li talked about peaceful development and reunification of the island nation. He added “We should promote the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and advance the process of China’s peaceful reunification.” On the contrary, China’s military buildup has raised alarms in Taiwan and beyond.

The Taiwan Strait is one of the most volatile flashpoints in the Asia-Pacific region. In recent years, China has stepped up its military activities around Taiwan, including sending military aircraft and ships near the island. China has also increased its military presence in the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with other countries.

China’s increased military spending is part of its wider push to modernize and upgrade its military capabilities. China has been investing heavily in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, and hypersonic weapons, which could pose a threat to Taiwan’s defences. In recent years, China has also been expanding its navy, building new aircraft carriers like the ‘Fujian’ which is progressing quickly for sea trials. It is China’s third and most technologically advanced aircraft carrier. 

Its implication for India

Along with Taiwan, China’s defence budget increase has also brought concern to its immediate neighbor India. If we compare both countries’ military budgets, India’s military budget stands at approx $72.6 billion against China’s $225 billion which is three times bigger in size. With this the potential for strategic competition between China and India in the LAC might increase. The increase in China’s defence budget signals its growing military strength and ambitions, which could lead to a more assertive China. India, already facing several security challenges in the region, will need to carefully monitor China’s military buildup and take steps to ensure its own security and military preparedness. The recent border clashes between the two countries in the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh have already made the Indo-China relations tensed and China’s increased military strength could further aggravate these tensions. Recently the External affairs minister Dr. S. Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart to discuss the bilateral relations of both the countries and to maintain peace and tranquillity majorly in the border areas. China’s military needs and goals are far more complex and diverse, including a contentious boundary dispute with India, and its claim on Taiwan. India will need to be more vigilant and maintain its military readiness to defend its borders with new weapons, aircraft and create military infrastructure.

India’s take on the Taiwan issue

India is examining the situation from an Indo-Pacific perspective with regard to the Taiwan problem. It has security-related ramifications. Experts have argued that Taiwan is essential for the Indo-Pacific countries to keep China in check. A crucial link between the paradigm and the international scene. Yet most of the Indo-Pacific countries have upheld the idea of ‘One China’ Policy. India on the other hand have opted to skip the team ‘One China’ policy as it is playing hard ball with China as their bilateral border relations remain unusual. The unofficial relations between India and Taiwan have improved especially in the economic front.

China’s increasing military buildup, particularly its defence budget, has significant implications for Taiwan and India. China’s intentions towards Taiwan are becoming more apparent with its military activities, and its technological advancements could pose a threat to Taiwan’s defence. India, on the other hand, will need to monitor China closely and develop its military infrastructure to defend the contested zones. The situation in the Indo-Pacific region is complex, and various countries are examining the issue from different perspectives. As tensions rise, it is important for all countries to maintain open communication and work towards peaceful resolutions to avoid further escalation of conflicts.

[Photo by U.S. Coast Guard, via Wikimedia Commons]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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