China-Taiwan Weekly Update, June 30, 2023

China-Taiwan Weekly Update, June 30, 2023

Authors: Nils Peterson of the Institute for the Study of War

Editors: Dan Blumenthal and Frederick W. Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute

Data Cutoff: June 28 at Noon ET

The China–Taiwan Weekly Update focuses on Chinese Communist Party paths to controlling Taiwan and relevant cross–Taiwan Strait developments.

Key Takeaways

  1. The PLA has normalized drone flights around Taiwan within Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and may begin conducting such flights with regular manned aircraft during the next 12-24 months.
  2. Ongoing media coverage about TPP presidential candidate Ko Wen-je’s support for resuming cross-strait talks involving the controversial Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) may improve the standing of the DPP or KMT in the 2024 presidential election.
  3. The PRC framed the Wagner Group rebellion as a minor challenge that Russia overcame.

Taiwan Developments

This section covers relevant developments pertaining to Taiwan, including its upcoming January 13, 2024 presidential and legislative elections.

The PLA has normalized drone flights around Taiwan within Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and may begin conducting such flights with regular manned aircraft during the next 12-24 months. The PLA began flying drones in Taiwan’s ADIZ on September 4, 2022.[1] The PLA conducted its first drone flight around Taiwan within the ADIZ in April 2023 and did so twice in May 2023.[2] The flights around the island reflect a change over the last year, during which the PLA flew drones and manned aircraft up to halfway around Taiwan starting from southwestern ADIZ.[3] The way in which PLA violations of Taiwan’s southwestern ADIZ changed over the last year suggests that that the PLA will expand flights around Taiwan. The pattern of PLA intrusions into the southwestern ADIZ began with individual aircraft or drones on a near daily basis. The PLA committed ADIZ violations intermittently with sorties of tens of planes in the months and years thereafter.[4] The PLA has not regularly sent large numbers of drones into Taiwan’s ADIZ without accompanying manned aircraft. The PLA’s flights around Taiwan within the ADIZ is a change from the manned “island encirclement patrol” flights, which have circumnavigated Taiwan outside of the ADIZ since 2016.[5] It is unclear if some of these flights briefly entered into the Taiwanese ADIZ. This demonstrates the PLA conducts manned flights that circle Taiwan.

The PLA likely aims to reduce Taiwan’s decision-making timeline for responding to military flights within the ADIZ. The PLA flights encircling Taiwan within the ADIZ complicate the ROC’s contingency planning compared to previous flights around Taiwan. Aerial encirclement of Taiwan confers operational advantages to the PLA by presenting nearly constant flights that the ROC must track. This compresses the ROC’s decision-making timeline about engaging PLA aircraft and presents challenges to determining which aircraft to target.

The normalization of manned flights around Taiwan within the ADIZ would support a CCP coercion campaign to induce unification on the PRC’s terms. The flights aim to wear down Taiwanese military readiness, force difficult decisions regarding ROC resources allocation, as well as create a sense of impenetrable siege among the Taiwanese population. These effects support CCP efforts to degrade the Taiwanese populace’s confidence in its government’s capacity to defend the country, a key part of the longer-term CCP coercion campaign to induce unification under the PRC. Compressed decision-making timelines about whether to engage PLA aircraft also enhances the risk of miscalculation by the PRC or ROC that could lead to a crisis.


The Taiwanese (Republic of China) political spectrum is largely divided between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Kuomintang (KMT). The DPP broadly favors Taiwanese autonomy, Taiwanese identity, and skepticism towards China. The KMT favors closer economic and cultural relations with China along with a broader alignment with a Chinese identity. The DPP under President Tsai Ing-wen has controlled the presidency and legislature (Legislative Yuan) since 2016. This presidential election cycle also includes the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je who frames his movement as an amorphous alternative to the DPP and KMT. It is normal for Taiwanese presidential elections to have third party candidates, but none have ever won. The 2024 Taiwan presidential and legislative elections will be held on January 13, 2024 and the new president will take office in May 2024. Presidential candidates can win elections with a plurality of votes in Taiwan.

Ongoing media coverage about TPP presidential candidate Ko Wen-je’s support for resuming cross-strait talks involving the controversial Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) may improve the standing of the DPP or KMT in the 2024 presidential election. The CSSTA is an unratified cross-strait trade agreement that many Taiwanese view as controversial due to the length it would have opened the Taiwanese economy to Chinese investment.[6] Ko called for resuming cross-strait talks through the CSSTA on June 20.[7] He renounced this statement on June 24, stating that his comments were from an internal discussion rather than his policy proposal or campaign platform. Ko accused the media of defaming him as being a pro-China candidate.[8] The media coverage of Ko’s comments reflects a change in public attention from scandals that involve the DPP and KMT that contributed to an increase in popular support for Ko to cross-strait policy issues that favor the DPP.[9] The DPP stands to gain voters amid concerns that Ko’s cross-strait policy is unfavorable or incoherent and as a counterpoint to the KMT’s policy of pro-China engagement. DPP presidential candidate Lai Ching-te is maintaining the platform of Taiwanese sovereignty that helped the party win the last two presidential elections.[10]

Ko’s comments about resuming cross-strait talks involving the CSSTA are surprising because he opposed the agreement during his successful run for Taipei mayor in 2014.[11] This aligned him with Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement, which was a series of protests in 2014 that resulted in the occupation of the Legislative Yuan and the successful prevention of the ratification of the CSSTA. Ko competes with pan-green parties such as the DPP for the political support of individuals who participated in the Sunflower Movement. KMT presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih took the position that Taiwan should pass the CSSTA and engage in greater overall exchange with China.[12] The DPP released a statement condemning the CSSTA and condemning the PRC for coercive trade practices aimed at Taiwan.[13] Ko’s comments could push some of his supporters to vote for pan-green parties like the DPP who condemn the CSSTA.

China Developments

This section covers relevant developments pertaining to China and the governing Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The PRC framed the Wagner Group rebellion as a minor challenge that Russia overcame. The Chinese press portrayed Russian daily life in a state of normalcy by showing that the Scarlet Sails festival went ahead as scheduled in St. Petersburg.[14] The Chinese state expressed support for Russia in stabilizing the situation and framed China as a responsible power aiming to maintain regional stability.[15] Chinese state media also repeated Russian narratives blaming Western intelligence agencies for inciting the rebellion.[16]

ISW is considering two hypotheses about Chinese support to Russia in the aftermath of the rebellion.

The CCP may message support for Putin’s regime without providing direct materiel assistance to him. This is plausible because China is sensitive to European criticisms of its military support to Russia.[17] This hypothesis is unlikely because China already provides Russia with military assistance such as rifles and smokeless powder.[18] Indicators that would support the hypothesis include: 1) Chinese state media repeating Russian information narratives about the Wagner rebellion and 2) Chinese ambassadors in Europe stressing Chinese neutrality while falsely blaming NATO and the United States for instigating the war. In this outcome, the PRC would weaken its relationship with Putin.

The CCP may alternatively increase its economic, military, or intelligence support to Russia to ensure regime stability. This is plausible because the CCP aims to avoid an economically and politically unstable Russia.[19] This hypothesis is unlikely because the PRC is sensitive to Europeans viewing China as a threat rather than partner.[20] Indicators that would support the hypothesis include: 1) Unannounced meetings between Politburo or CMC members and their Russian counterparts during the coming weeks; 2) negotiations or agreements for arms sales or technological transfer; and 3) the expansion of Sino-Russian military cooperation through military exercises or intelligence sharing. In this outcome, Chinese material assistance to Russia would undermine the CCP’s efforts to divide the United States and Europe on trade restrictions, including sensitive technology such as semiconductor chip production.




[4] dot tw/Publish.aspx?p=78724&title=%e5%9c%8b%e9%98%b2%e6%b6%88%e6%81%af&SelectStyle=%e5%8d%b3%e6%99%82%e8%bb%8d%e4%ba%8b%e5%8b%95%e6%85%8b dot tw/Publish.aspx?p=79036&title=%e5%9c%8b%e9%98%b2%e6%b6%88%e6%81%af&SelectStyle=%e5%8d%b3%e6%99%82%e8%bb%8d%e4%ba%8b%e5%8b%95%e6%85%8b dot tw/Publish.aspx?p=79127&title=%e5%9c%8b%e9%98%b2%e6%b6%88%e6%81%af&SelectStyle=%e5%8d%b3%e6%99%82%e8%bb%8d%e4%ba%8b%e5%8b%95%e6%85%8b dot tw/Publish.aspx?p=79139&title=%e5%9c%8b%e9%98%b2%e6%b6%88%e6%81%af&SelectStyle=%e5%8d%b3%e6%99%82%e8%bb%8d%e4%ba%8b%e5%8b%95%e6%85%8b dot tw/Publish.aspx?p=79518&title=%e5%9c%8b%e9%98%b2%e6%b6%88%e6%81%af&SelectStyle=%e5%8d%b3%e6%99%82%e8%bb%8d%e4%ba%8b%e5%8b%95%e6%85%8b

[5] https://www.thepaper dot cn/newsDetail_forward_1903591., pages 43-54.

[6] https://daybreak dot newbloommag dot net/2017/07/20/what-was-the-cssta/

[7] https://en.rti dot

[8] https://www.cna dot

https://www.taiwannews dot


[10] https://www.taipeitimes dot com/News/taiwan/archives/2023/06/05/2003800995

[11] https://focustaiwan dot tw/cross-strait/202306260012

[12] https://focustaiwan dot tw/cross-strait/202306260012

[13] https://www.dpp dot

[14] dot cn/world/2023-06/25/c_1129715413.htm

[15] dot cn/eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2535_665405/202306/t20230625_11103407.html?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email dot cn/fyrbt_673021/202306/t20230626_11103877.shtml

https://www.globaltimes dot cn/page/202306/1293202.shtml?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

[16] https://mil.huanqiu dot com/article/4DUPQiLTgUY

[17] https://www.globaltimes dot cn/page/202304/1289766.shtml


[19] https://www.globaltimes dot cn/page/202306/1293202.shtml?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

[20] https://www.globaltimes dot cn/page/202306/1292603.shtml; https://www.globaltimes dot cn/page/202211/1280180.shtml; https://www.globaltimes dot cn/page/202208/1273712.shtml


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