China-Taiwan Weekly Update, March 22, 2024

China-Taiwan Weekly Update, March 22, 2024

Authors: Nils Peterson, Matthew Sperzel, and Daniel Shats of the Institute for the Study of War

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

Data Cutoff: March 22 at 12pm ET

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

Key Takeaways  

  • The Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) is expanding efforts to erode the Republic of China's (ROC) sovereignty around Kinmen Island.
  • The PRC Ministry of Defense (MOD) warned the United States was “playing with fire” in stationing Green Berets on the Kinmen and Penghu islands.
  • The PRC is framing the upcoming April 11 US-Japan-Philippines trilateral as a way for the United States to drive tension in the South China Sea.
  • The PRC MFA framed the United States–South Korea Freedom Shield military exercise as causing instability on the Korean Peninsula.
  • The PRC had its first public diplomatic meeting with a Hamas official and its first diplomatic visits to Israel and Palestine since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.


Cross-Strait Relations


The Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) expanded its efforts to erode the Republic of China's (ROC) sovereignty around Kinmen Island. Four CCG ships operated in Taiwan’s territorial waters around Kinmen Island for two consecutive days for the first time on March 15 and 16.[1] One of the ships was a converted naval corvette that conducted the passage with its gun covers removed.[2] The CCG framed its operations as legitimate law enforcement to safeguard Chinese fishermen, including those from Taiwan.[3] The CCG’s removal of its gun covers during its passage through Taiwan’s waters illustrates its offensive posturing, indicating its actions are intended to intimidate the Taiwanese Coast Guard rather than uphold a safe maritime environment. CCG ships have previously used this tactic to intimidate rival law enforcement in contested waters, including the Philippines Coast Guard around Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.[4]

Kinmen is a Taiwan-controlled island with a large military garrison roughly 3 kilometers from the coast of the PRC. The Taiwan Coast Guard Administration (CGA) enforces maritime laws around Kinmen and its lesser islands. The CCP does not accept Taiwan’s sovereignty over the waters around the island, however.[5]

The latest violations are part of a trend of CCG incursions following an incident on February 14 in which a PRC fishing boat in Taiwan’s prohibited waters near Kinmen capsized while fleeing from a legal Taiwanese Coast Guard pursuit. The capsizing resulted in the deaths of two of the four fishermen onboard. The CCG pledged on February 18 to strengthen law enforcement activities around Kinmen. The CCG has maintained a persistent presence around Kinmen and repeatedly violated Taiwan’s maritime boundaries since then. The CCG boarded a Taiwanese sightseeing ship on February 19, marking the first time a CCG ship conducted inspections in Taiwanese waters.[6] Five CCG marine surveillance ships entered Taiwan’s contiguous zone around Kinmen on February 26, including one that crossed into territorial waters.[7] The total number of CCG ships around Kinmen reached 11 on February 27, including two that entered Taiwan’s contiguous zone. Normalizing operations around Taiwan’s waters sets conditions for the PRC to apply further pressure on Taiwan in the future.

The rapid normalization of CCG operations in Kinmen’s waters in response to the incident suggests the PRC had pre-formulated reactions to this type of contingency. The PRC exploited the capsizing incident as a pretense to initiate a concerted coercion campaign that serves to incrementally challenge and erode the ROC’s sovereignty in its adjacent waters.

The PRC has shown that it is unwilling to return to the status quo before the Kinmen incident. The CCG and CGA cooperated on a joint search and rescue effort after a PRC fishing vessel capsized in PRC-controlled waters around Kinmen on March 14.[8] Both coast guards conducted search operations within their respective jurisdictions. CGA Director Chou Mei-wu framed the cooperation as a means to ease tensions with the PRC after the initial capsizing incident in February.[9] The CCG’s successive border violations on March 15 and 16 demonstrate the PRC’s rejection of opportunities to de-escalate tensions as it continues to erode ROC sovereignty around its outer islands.


The Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) are pursuing political reforms that threaten to undermine the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) governance by expanding legislative oversight of the executive branch.
The reforms aim to strengthen the Legislative Yuan’s (LY) investigation rights by granting it more power to conduct inquiries and call on officials to testify before the LY, establish penalties for perceived non-compliance or dishonesty in responses, and empower the LY to confirm political appointments.[10] The TPP and KMT have consistently stated that establishing a legislative investigative task force to strengthen oversight of the executive branch is at the top of their agenda.[11] KMT caucus Secretary-General Lin Tzu-ming earlier referred to the proposed mechanism as a “great weapon” that the LY must use to supervise the government.[12] Collaboration between the KMT and the TPP on the proposals suggests that the reforms will pass with a majority in the LY, as the two opposition parties outnumber the DPP in the LY. The opposition’s plan to impose checks and balances on the DPP could significantly hamper the government’s ability to pass policy by miring it in defensive actions against accusations of overstepping authority or corruption.

The reforms have passed the initial stage and are scheduled for review by the LY’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee. DPP Caucus Whip and LY Judicial Committee member Ker Chien-ming argued that the reforms are unconstitutional. Ker threatened a procedural objection that could delay the committee’s review process if the KMT did not arrange a public hearing to scrutinize the bill.[13] KMT Caucus Whip and LY Judicial Committee member Fu Kun-chi accused the DPP of obstruction and stated that “only checks and balances will prevent the DPP from falling into corruption.”[14]

The PRC Ministry of Defense (MOD) warned the United States was “playing with fire” in stationing Green Berets on the Kinmen and Penghu islands. US-based special operations-focused online publication SOFREP first reported on March 8 that US Army Special Forces (Green Berets) would be permanently stationed at the Taiwanese Army’s amphibious command centers on the outlying islands of Kinmen and Penghu.[15] ROC Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng responded to media inquiries about the permanent presence of US troops in Taiwan on March 14 without confirming the details of the SOFREP report. Chiu stated that interactions with friendly countries fall within the scope of exchange and cooperation, and help Taiwan’s armed forces recognize blind spots and shortcomings in military preparedness.[16] US service members have trained Taiwanese military personnel for decades in an arrangement that Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen first acknowledged in 2021.[17] Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command John Aquilino said on March 20 that reports of US troops “permanently stationed” on Kinmen were inaccurate, however.[18]

PRC MOD spokesperson Zhang Xiaogang responded to the ROC claim on March 15 by stressing that the “Taiwan issue” is the first “insurmountable red line” in US-PRC relations. Zhang said that the US troop deployment and arms sales to Taiwan aimed to “weaken, hollow out, and distort” the one-China principle and warned that “those who connive at and support ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces will get burned for playing with fire and taste the bitter fruit of their own doing.” He said the PRC military will “resolutely smash ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities and external interfering attempts.”[19]

PRC officials strongly objected to Taiwan Vice President-Elect Hsiao Bi-khim’s visits to the United States and Czechia. Hsiao, Taiwan’s former envoy to the United States, began a low-profile “personal trip” to Washington DC during the week of March 12. Media reports said that US and Taiwanese officials tried to keep the trip a secret to avoid angering the PRC, but cited unnamed sources who said Hsiao would meet with unspecified US officials to discuss her incoming administration’s agenda.[20] Spokesperson for the PRC embassy in the United States Liu Penghu called Hsiao a “diehard Taiwan independence separatist” and expressed Beijing’s firm opposition to her trip.[21] Liu and MFA spokesperson Wang Wenbin both stressed the PRC “firmly opposes” any official interaction between the United States and Taiwan.[22] Hsiao also visited Czechia on March 19 and met with Czech Senate President Miloš Vystrčil at a think tank event.[23] MFA spokesperson Lin Jian expressed opposition and warned Czechia to end its “bad behavior” of holding exchanges with Taiwan.[24]


The PRC signaled strong opposition to a US bill that would ban TikTok in the United States if TikTok’s PRC parent company does not sell its stake. TikTok is owned by the PRC technology firm Bytedance. PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson Wang Wenbin accused the United States of overstretching the concept of “national security” to hinder foreign competition, said the attempt to force the sale of TikTok was based on “sheer robbers’ logic,” and warned that the US moves would eventually backfire. Wang claimed the US government has never found evidence that TikTok poses a national security threat.[25] Wang also claimed the PRC’s bans on Facebook, Instagram, and other Western social media were “completely incomparable” to the US approach to TikTok because the PRC allegedly welcomes all foreign products and platforms “as long as they observe Chinese laws,” while the US government was discriminating against a specific company.[26]

TikTok has claimed it never shares US user data with the PRC, but the US government recommended that government employees avoid the app over concerns that it may allow PRC access to user data.[27] Former head of engineering for TikTok in the United States Yintao Yu claimed in 2023 that CCP officials could access US user data from the app.[28] TikTok’s parent Bytedance is a private company but has an internal CCP committee to regulate its “political direction,” like most large PRC firms.[29] The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) additionally stated that TikTok accounts run by a “PRC propaganda arm” targeted US Congressional candidates during the 2022 midterm elections.[30]

Northeast Asia


The PRC MOD framed the growth of Japan’s defense budget increase as unjustified and militaristic rather than a response to regional security issues, including PLA military coercion targeting Japan. The Japanese Cabinet approved a USD 55.9 billion defense budget for Fiscal Year 2024 in December 2023. The budget stipulates annual increases until it reaches USD 62.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2027.[31] The PRC MOD claimed on March 15 that this increase makes “the international community question whether Japan… adheres to the path of peaceful development.”[32] The Japanese defense budget increase comes in response to PRC aggression around the Japanese home islands. Japan’s Joint Staff noted in January 2024 that it scrambled fighters 555 times in the last nine months of 2023.[33] 98 percent of the scrambles responded to Chinese and Russian aircraft, and more than 50 percent occurred near Japan’s southwest airspace, which encompasses the Miyako Strait.[34]

North Korea

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko met with Chinese Special Representative on Korean Peninsula Affairs Liu Xiaoming in Moscow on March 19 to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula.[35] Rudenko and Liu accused the United States and its allies of threatening the military situation in northeastern Asia and warned the United States against the proliferation of Cold War-style “bloc thinking.”[36] The PRC MFA issued similar comments in framing the United States–South Korea Freedom Shield military exercise as causing instability on the Korean Peninsula.

Southeast Asia


The PRC is framing the United States as a destabilizing force in the South China Sea ahead of the April 11 US-Japan-Philippines trilateral summit.[37] PRC MFA Spokesman Wang Wenbin remarked on March 14 to a question about the summit that the “US has traveled halfway around the world to China’s doorsteps to form exclusive circles, flex muscles and make provocations.”[38] United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated an “ironclad” commitment to the US-Philippine alliance on March 19 in the ongoing aftermath of PRC revisionism in the SCS.[39] PRC MFA Spokesman Lin Jian responded on March 19 that the United States is “not a party” to South China Sea issues and therefore has no right to “intervene” in Sino-Philippine disputes.[40] The MFA’s rhetoric is consistent with previous PRC messaging about the US role in the region. The PRC MOD framed the United States as “creating bloc confrontations that escalate regional tension” after the June 2023 US-Japan-Philippines trilateral summit.[41]

The messaging from the PRC MFA aims to deflect blame from the PRC for heightened tensions in the South China Sea, namely over the Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal. Scarborough Shoal is a contested atoll that the PRC and the Philippines claim and that has been under de facto PRC control since 2012.[42] The Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) erected a floating barrier and intercepted Philippine Coast Guard vessels in February to deny the Philippines access to the shoal.[43] The CCG has also disrupted Philippine Coast Guard missions to ensure the security of Filipino fishermen near the shoal. The Second Thomas Shoal is a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea which the Philippines and the PRC both claim. The Philippines controls the shoal with troops based on the grounded warship BRP Sierra Madre. A CCG vessel attempted to block and collided with a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel escorting a supply mission to Second Thomas Shoal on March 5, causing minor damage to the Philippine ship.[44] Two CCG ships also fired water cannons at a separate Philippine supply ship, injuring four Philippine personnel, and later collided with it.[45]

The CCG actions In the South China Sea support PRC claims of sovereignty over nearly the entirety of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, through the “nine dash line” maritime boundary. The PRC rejects a 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that declared the nine dash line claims are unlawful.[46] The PRC has constructed, seized, and attempted to seize many islands in the South China Sea so it can build a military presence throughout the critical waterway. The PRC has built military infrastructure on islands that it has seized control of or artificially constructed to expand its power projection capability, strengthen domain awareness, and increase its control over critical Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) through the South China Sea. Developing the capability to monitor or restrict ships through the South China Sea would support a future PRC effort to implement a blockade of Taiwan or block US and allied reinforcements from reaching the Taiwan Strait in wartime.


PRC Foreign Minister Want Yi visited Australia and New Zealand between March 17 and 21. Wang’s meeting with New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters addressed implementing the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, as well as disagreements over New Zealand’s potential ascension into AUKUS.[47] The PRC MFA framed Wang’s separate meetings with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong as seeking common ground and opportunities for Sino-Australian collaboration.[48] Wang’s visit to Australia also included meetings with the Australian business community and former Prime Minister Paul Keating.[49] Keating is a prominent critic of AUKUS and a former board member of the CCP-run China Development Bank.[50] This is the first visit by a PRC foreign minister to Australia since 2017.[51]


Russia-Ukraine War

The PRC advocated for direct dialogue between Russia and Ukraine without committing to the Ukraine-proposed “global peace summit” in Switzerland. PRC Ambassador to Switzerland Wang Shihting said in an interview on March 18 that the PRC supports direct dialogue between Russia and Ukraine as soon as possible. He also stated that the PRC is “examining the possibility of taking part” in the Ukraine-proposed “global peace summit." [52] MFA spokesperson Lin Jian subsequently avoided directly answering whether the PRC would participate in the summit or whether it would push for Russia to participate.[53]

Wang Shihting’s comments do not signal a change in PRC policy toward the war in Ukraine. The PRC has consistently backed peace talks or negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, in abstract terms, and portrayed itself as an impartial and “stabilizing” force in pushing for a political settlement to end the war. It has not committed to any specific peace talk proposals, however. PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed Ukraine’s proposal for peace talks in Switzerland on February 17 during the Munich Security Conference, stating that there were not “ripe conditions” for peace talks, in comments that were omitted from PRC readouts.[54] Wang Yi told the National People’s Congress on March 7 that the PRC supports holding “in due course” an international peace conference recognized by both Russia and Ukraine.[55] Russia has said it will not participate in the summit even if invited.[56]  PRC Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui reiterated PRC support for a “timely convening of an international peace conference” but acknowledged on March 22 that “there is a relatively big gap in [the Russian and Ukrainian] understanding of peace talks.” Li’s acknowledgement of differences in the two sides’ understanding of peace talks was absent from the PRC readout of his remarks.[57]

The PRC rhetorically aligns with Russian framing in criticizing NATO, portraying the Western security order and arms sales to Ukraine as fueling the war, opposing sanctions on Russia, and calling for respect for Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.”[58] The PRC has not shown any willingness to pressure Russia to end the war.

Middle East

Israel-Hamas War

The PRC had its first public diplomatic meeting with a Hamas official and its first diplomatic visits to Israel and the West Bank since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. PRC MFA envoy Wang Kejian met with the head of Hamas’ political bureau Ismail Haniyeh in Doha, Qatar on March 17. This was the first meeting between PRC and Hamas officials that the PRC has publicly acknowledged since the war in Gaza began in October 2023. Hamas claimed that Wang called Hamas “part of the Palestinian national fabric” and said the PRC is “keen on relations with it.”[59] The PRC readout simply said Wang and Haniyeh “exchanged views on the Gaza conflict.”[60] The PRC has not publicly criticized Hamas since the war began. MFA Spokesperson Lin Jian said on March 19 that the PRC supports the Palestinian Authority in governing all Palestinian territories and called for “internal reconciliation” among all political factions in Palestine, however.[61]

Wang, who is a former ambassador to Lebanon, has been in the Middle East since at least March 10 discussing the Gaza war with officials in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, and Qatar.[62] He led the PRC’s first diplomatic trip to Israel and Palestine since the war began, meeting with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al Maliki in the West Bank on March 13 and Israeli foreign ministry officials Hagai Shagrir and Rachel Feinmesser in Israel on March 14. The PRC readouts for the meetings in Israel and the West Bank said Wang reiterated the PRC support for a ceasefire in Gaza, humanitarian aid, and the promotion of a two-state solution, though these policy positions were absent from the readout of the Hamas meeting.[63] This has been the PRC’s consistent stance on the conflict, which broadly aligns with the view of Arab states and allows the PRC to portray itself as a responsible great power that is pushing for peace. PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi endorsed Palestine becoming a full member of the UN on March 7.[64]



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