It comes as Taiwan and the United States appear to draw closer diplomatically – much to Beijing’s ire – and Taipei calls for even more international support amid deepening concerns it could at any moment become the “next Hong Kong.”
In June, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a sweeping security law in the name of quashing dissent in Hong Kong – prompting activists and opposition politicians to flee or face arrest in a fast-moving erosion of freedoms that the financial enclave was supposed to uphold until at least 2047.
"Beijing cannot win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese, the CCP has therefore chosen a punitive strategy – increased military coercion, efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally, and various attempts to undermine the effectiveness of Taiwan's democratic institutions, support for those institutions, and to erode state cohesion," Michael Cole, Taipei-based senior fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, Canada, told Fox News. "Taiwan's very existence as a free, democratic society is a living condemnation of the CCP. Hong Kong was a stark reminder of that reality, and the Taiwanese were well aware of this."
HONG KONG COPS CRITICIZED INTERNATIONALLY FOLLOWING VIOLENT ARREST OF 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL
Last month, Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu cautioned in a meeting with visiting U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar that fears of its freedoms being crushed by China were an ever-evolving cause for concern. And its provocative uptick in military activity – a symbolic hint to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen over who is in charge and that any move toward official independence will be greeted with force – amid the distraction of the global pandemic has not gone without notice.
Yet many observers worry that the drills and campaign of intimidation are more than mere messaging – raising the risk of conflict, while at the same time investigating the semi-autonomous island's readiness and defense capabilities.
As Chinese military actions grew in May, Taiwan responded by sending in marines the following month in an attempt to bolster the barracks that were previously only secured by the Coast Guard. Over the course of recent months, China has deployed both its air force and navy to conduct exercises on an almost daily basis near Taiwan's periphery, including a multitude of intentional forays into Taiwan's airspace.
The CCP is also said to be shoring up its offensive and intimidation tactics in cyberspace.