Sunday, March 26

China’s war games spur Taiwanese business to rally to island’s defence

China’s military has sent planes and warships to probe Taiwan’s defences for a second day, escalating a crisis that has prompted one of the island’s richest men to donate millions of dollars to its security.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Friday that multiple groups of Chinese warplanes and warships had been operating in the area of the Taiwan Strait until 11am, including on Taiwan’s side of the median line, an unofficial division of the strait drawn by the US decades ago to lower the risk of conflict.

Robert Tsao, founder of contract chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp, announced that he was donating NT$3bn ($100mn) towards Taiwan’s defence.

“With the Chinese Communist party acting so despotically towards Taiwan, perhaps they think Taiwanese people all fear death and covet money?” he said at a fiery press conference. “But I hope . . . we stand up and fight to defend freedom, democracy and human rights.”

Tsao previously told Taiwanese media that his two sons would return to the country if China invaded. His latest comments were the strongest from a high-profile tycoon in Taiwan’s technology hardware sector since the start of the military drills this week.

Last week, Mark Liu, chair of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the world’s leading high-end chipmaker, told CNN that “nobody can control TSMC by force”.

China’s unprecedented live-fire war games, which have prompted the biggest cross-strait crisis since the 1990s, were launched this week to punish Taiwan for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the country.

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday afternoon that it would impose sanctions against Pelosi and members of her immediate family.

“US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted on going to Taiwan in disregard of China’s serious concerns and firm opposition. This . . . severely tramples on the ‘one China’ principle,” the ministry said, without specifying the scope of the penalties.

On the last stop of her five-nation tour, Pelosi met Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, who condemned China’s missile launches and called for an immediate end to military drills.

Pelosi said at a press conference that while the Taiwan visit was not intended to change the status quo, it took place against a backdrop of repeated attempts by China to isolate Taiwan from the rest of the world.

Pelosi and Kishida spoke hours after China fired ballistic missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone for the first time.

Chinese official media, meanwhile, sought to drum up support for the exercises following an international backlash. An op-ed in the military mouthpiece PLA Daily said the drills were aimed at “deterrence” after Taiwan and the US colluded to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, an echo of Beijing’s insistence that Washington was ultimately responsible for provoking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Meng Xiangqing, a professor at the National Defence University in Beijing, claimed that a US aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, had been forced to retreat several hundred kilometres after the People’s Liberation Army set up a firing range to the east of Taiwan.

Pelosi’s trip across Asia has also underscored the diplomatic quandary for regional leaders caught in the spat between the world’s two biggest economies. On Thursday, South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol declined to meet Pelosi during her visit to Seoul, as his administration comes under increasing Chinese pressure over its commercial and defence ties with the US.

The apparent snub was cheered by Chinese media and netizens. “Pelosi doesn’t appear to be popular in Seoul,” wrote the Chinese state-owned nationalist tabloid Global Times.

Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding in Beijing and Tom Mitchell in Singapore

Video: Will China and the US go to war over Taiwan?

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