China Fighter Jets Will Fly Over Taiwan to Declare Sovereignty, State Media Says

Chinese fighter jets will fly over Taiwan to "declare sovereignty" if relations between Washington and Taipei continue to improve, a prominent state media figure said after Beijing sent 25 warplanes toward the island on Monday.

Hu Xijin, chief editor of China's nationalistic Communist Party newspaper the Global Times, fired back at recent comments by Secretary Antony Blinken and said the military operation was a response to the State Department's loosening of interaction guidelines between officials from the U.S. and Taiwan.

The People's Liberation Army would "step up military pressure" in the event of a further warming of U.S.-Taiwan ties, he said. "If Taiwan forces open fire, that will be the moment of all-out war across the Taiwan Strait," he added.

The People's Republic of China claims ownership of democratic Taiwan despite having never governed it in the seven decades since its founding after the Chinese Civil War. The Chinese government has never renounced the use of force in its ultimate goal of "reunifying" the island, while Taiwan continues to be run as a de facto state and maintains several unofficial, yet crucial, global partners in an ambiguous existence known as the status quo.

Despite Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's insistence that her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) intends to maintain the status quo, her efforts to make the country less reliant on the Chinese economy—and her demand that its democratically elected leaders be treated with parity by their cross-strait counterparts—have been perceived by Beijing as incremental moves toward de jure independence.

The U.S., Taiwan's most important security partner, has signaled its approval of the Taiwanese government's posture and lent its support as China's military intimidation escalated in recent years.

Beijing's "increasingly aggressive actions" were of "real concern" to the Biden administration, Secretary of State Blinken told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday as he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment toward Taiwan and its self-defense through the Taiwan Relations Act.

Asked about the possibility of a Chinese invasion of the self-ruled island, Blinken said it would be "a serious mistake for anyone to try to change the existing status quo by force."

In a short video posted on the Global Times website, Hu criticized the remarks and described them as "deceptive." He charged Washington and Taipei with being the "real destroyers" of the status quo, citing the U.S.' failure to stop the DPP's rejection of Beijing's "one-China principle," under which Taiwan exists as a Chinese region.

"If the U.S. and Taiwan authorities continue their current policy, the mainland will definitely step up military pressure," Hu said. "If the U.S. and Taiwan take further prominent actions, PLA fighter jets will fly over Taiwan island to declare sovereignty."

After 25 Chinese warplanes, including 18 fighter jets and four nuclear-capable heavy bombers, flew sorties into Taiwan's air defense zone on Monday, Hu said it was a response to the Biden administration's amended U.S.-Taiwan communication guidelines, which reportedly allow officials from Taipei to visit federal buildings.

"The guidance underscores Taiwan is a vibrant democracy and an important security and economic partner that is also a force for good in the international community," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement announcing the protocols last Friday.

"In my opinion, this is a response to the State Department's new U.S.-Taiwan interaction guidelines," Hu wrote on his Weibo account while announcing China's warplane figures on Tuesday.

PLA warplanes around Taiwan had caused the government in Taipei a considerable amount of pressure, the state media personality continued in Chinese. "The Taiwanese government fears PLA warplanes will fly over Taiwan to assert national sovereignty, and fears a misfire which could trigger a war."

He said Taiwan and the U.S. needed to "stop provocations" or "be prepared to welcome more PLA planes, closer to Taiwan proper and even directly above the island."

The Chinese government's newfound bullishness in the skies and seas around Taiwan has led analysts to restart the debate about America's "strategic ambiguity" regarding the defense of Taiwan.

While researchers in Taipei believe there is a trend toward "strategic clarity," Taiwan Strait watchers are divided over whether such a declaration would deter or incite a conflict.

Chinese Warplanes Perform In Air Show
A group of J-10 air fighters perform during an aerial show held to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force on November 15, 2009, in Beijing, China. China Photos/Getty Images