Taiwan Air Force Mirage fighter jets taxi on a runway at an airbase in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. China says it summoned European diplomats in the country to protest statements issued by the Group of Seven nations and the European Union criticizing threatening Chinese military exercises surrounding Taiwan. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)
A boat moves through the water at the 68-nautical-mile scenic spot, the closest point in mainland China to the island of Taiwan, in Pingtan in southeastern China’s Fujian Province, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. China conducted “precision missile strikes” Thursday in waters off Taiwan’s coasts as part of military exercises that have raised tensions in the region to their highest level in decades following a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China’s Military is Stronger Than Ever Before…

“It’s a much more contested and much more lethal environment for our forces.”

“It’s a very different situation now,” said Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration.

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China has strong military power at its disposal, including ship-killing missiles, a massive navy, and an increasingly capable air force.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has described China’s dramatic rise as a military power as a strategic earthquake.

“…We’re witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geo-strategic power that the world has witnessed,” Milley said last year.

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The Chinese Navy Has More Ships than America….

The Chinese military now is “very formidable especially in and around home waters, particularly in the vicinity of Taiwan,” said James Stavridis, a retired four-star admiral and former commander of NATO.

China’s navy now has more ships than the U.S.

Although U.S. naval ships are larger and more advanced, with more experienced crews and commanders, “quantity has a quality all its own,” said the former Commander of NATO.

A Chinese J-11 military fighter jet flies above the Taiwan Strait near Pingtan, the closest land of mainland China to the island of Taiwan, in Pingtan in southeastern China’s Fujian Province, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. China says it is canceling or suspending dialogue with the U.S. on issues from climate change to military relations and anti-drug efforts in retaliation for a visit this week to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

CHINA PLANS TO INVADE TAIWAN

China is currently building amphibious vessels and helicopters to be able to stage a possible full-scale invasion of Taiwan, experts say, though whether the PLA is capable of such a feat remains a matter of debate.

China’s President Xi Jinping gives a speech following a swearing-in ceremony to inaugurate the city’s new government in Hong Kong Friday, July 1, 2022, on the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. (Selim Chtayti/AP)
China’s President Xi Jinping, center, gives a speech following a swearing-in ceremony to inaugurate the city’s new leader and government in Hong Kong Friday, July 1, 2022, on the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. (Selim Chtayti/AP)

During the 1995-1996 crisis, China staged live-fire military drills, issued stern warnings to Taipei, and launched missiles into waters near Taiwan.

The U.S. military responded with the largest show of force since the Vietnam War, sending warships to the area including 2 aircraft carrier groups.

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In this June 29, 2019, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump poses for a photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, western Japan. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said Beijing is working to resolve conflicts with Washington over trade, dismissing speculation the talks might be in trouble as unreliable “rumors.” Trump had said he hoped to sign a preliminary agreement with Xi by this month. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“Beijing should know the strongest military power in the western Pacific is the United States,” said then-defense secretary, William Perry.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army back then was a low-tech, slow-moving force that was no match for the U.S. military, with a lackluster navy and air force that could not venture too far from China’s coastline, former and current U.S. officials said.

“They realized they were vulnerable, that the Americans could sail aircraft carriers right up in their face, and there was nothing they could do about it,” said Matthew Kroenig, an intelligence and defense official for the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.

The Chinese were surprised by the U.S. military’s high-tech display in the first Gulf War and decided to invest in their military. Their intention for this was to keep their position in the Taiwan Strait, while also developing a stronger military, according to Kroenig.

Beijing realized it needed satellite surveillance and other intelligence to spot opponents and a “blue water” navy and air force able to sail and fly across the western Pacific, according to David Finkelstein, the director of China and Indo-Pacific security affairs at CNA, an independent research institute.

“The PLA Navy has made remarkable progress since 1995 and 1996. It’s actually mind-staggering how quickly the PLA Navy has built itself up. And of course in ‘95-96, the PLA Air Force almost never flew over water,” said Finkelstein, a retired U.S. Army officer.

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