Asia-Pacific, China, Power & Security An Assessment of the Recent Chinese Incursion over the Taiwan Strait’s Median Line
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June 1, 2022
Thomas J. Shattuck | Global Taiwan Brief
On May 10, a Chinese WZ-10 attack helicopter made headlines for crossing the centerline of the Taiwan Strait. This centerline incursion was the first to occur since September 2020, when then-Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach visited Taipei to attend the funeral of Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and to discuss the launch of the US-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue (EPPD). During the September 2020 incursion, close to 40 aircraft crossed the centerline while conducting a live-fire drill. That provocation was promptly condemned by the United States, and no Chinese military aircraft crossed the centerline afterwards—until May 2022. During the latest incident, two KA-28 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters also flew into Taiwan’s southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ), which is the regular location for such incursions.
Beijing generally uses ADIZ incursions to signal its displeasure with Washington and Taipei, in addition to the training benefits of conducting regular sorties in the South China Sea. Centerline crossings, which are very uncommon, are considered a major form of escalation given the proximity to Taiwan. Why did Beijing choose this particular time to make a centerline crossing, and what is its significance? Does it point to a change in Beijing’s approach towards military aircraft flights in the vicinity of Taiwan?