China: March 16, 2004

Archives

The Chinese and French Navies are holding a five-day long joint naval exercise off the coast of Qingdao, a port city in east China's Shandong province (about 1,250 kilometers from Taiwan's northernmost point). This cruise is the twelfth visit made by French warships to China and their fourth to Qingdao. Involving around 700 sailors (322 of them French), this is to date the largest joint drill held by the Chinese and any foreign navy. 

The corvette-class 'Commandant Birot' and anti-submarine-warfare destroyer 'Latouche-Treville' arrived on March 12, joining the Chinese 'Harbin' destroyer, a supply vessel 'Hongze Lake' and a ship with a helicopter landing pad. The two groups completed flag signal exchanges and fleet formation changes. The March 16 exercises lasted eight hours, including refueling exercises at sea and search-and-rescue exercises, as well as landing helicopters on the other's vessels. 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Sing Tao Daily also reported that Chinese heavy military equipment had been moved into the south-western province of Fujian (facing Taiwan) while across the channel, news reports said that mobile antiaircraft missile systems had been quietly deployed in Taipei as police stepped up security.

So why is the timing of this exercise important? And why are the French involved? 
This show of military strength just four days before Taiwan holds a presidential election signaled China's desire to isolate the self-governing island before the vote and its first-ever referendum, which Beijing views as a provocative step towards independence. However, China's official Xinhua news agency made no link between the exercises and the election. 

China adopted a more subtle approach to avoid driving Taiwan voters into the camp of the pro-independence Chen. In 1996, China threatened Taiwan with missile tests and war games in the run-up to the island's first direct presidential elections, an attempt to dissuade voters from re-electing President Lee Teng-hui. This backfired and Lee won by a landslide.

France simply has more to gain by appearing to side with China. France, once a major supplier of weapons to Taiwan, has made no major deals with them for about 10 years. However, the diplomats can win French businesses a firm footing in a larger and rapidly growing market.

In January, President Chirac sided with China by opposing Taiwanese President Shui-bian's plan to hold a referendum on missile defense concurrent with the presidential elections. Taiwan responded by suspending high-level government exchanges with France. - Adam Geibel


 

Article Archive

China: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close