As a warning to secessionists in Taiwan, China announced that it would perform large-scale military exercises in the air and waters of the South and East China Sea near Taiwan. A few days ago, China issued a defense “white paper,” saying they were willing to use force to reunify the island country with the mainland.  

The drills are to include “all military branches of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) according to China’s Global Times, a state-run publication. They will be held until Friday off the western Chinese coast provinces of Zhejiang, directly north of Taiwan, and Guangdong, directly east of the island that split from the mainland in 1949.

From China’s perspective, Taiwan is a renegade province akin to a prized steer that must be shepherded, using force if needed, back to the herd or fold. Their umbrage has been directed at Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China is currently embroiled in spats with some other Asian nations including the Philippines and Vietnam over oil rich waters in the South China Sea. It is also battling the U.S. and President Donald Trump in a trade war that has been escalating in recent months. The U.S. is bound by the Taiwan Relations Act that went into effect New Years Day in 1979. The act was to help Taiwan defend itself and has resulted in approximately $15 billion in arms sold by the Pentagon and Washington DC since 2010.

Beijing refers to Taiwan as “the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations” and has recently held “encirclement exercises,” sending its lone operating aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. has also increased its presence with the dispatch of vessels through the key waterway several times in 2019.

2020 figures to be an interesting year for China and Taiwan. In a January, 2018, opinion piece by Deng Yuwen, an independent political commentator and international relations scholar for the South China Morning Post, he writes that China may have a “timetable” for the takeover of Taiwan in 2020.

2020 is a presidential election year in the U.S. and the possible re-election of Trump might spur China to act on Taiwan. Trump has called China a “strategic rival” along with Russia. Next year is also the 100th year of the founding of the Communist Party and Chinese President Xi Jinping might view the re-unification of Taiwan as quite an achievement to add to his legacy.