As America’s second most senior diplomat met her Chinese counterpart this week to reassure Beijing that the United States did not seek confrontation, the People’s Liberation Army Navy was preparing one of its most realistic beach landing drills in recent history.
Chinese state television said the latest exercises included drones, amphibious assault vehicles, self-propelled artillery and multi-barrel rocket launchers. According to the South China Morning Post, China has held 20 naval exercises aimed at capturing islands in the first half of 2021, compared to just 13 in the whole of 2020.
Foreign analysts disagree over whether such drills truly presage conflict, potentially over Taiwan. Earlier this year, China’s President Xi Jinping said the island, which Beijing has long regarded as a rogue province, “must and will” return to mainland control.
What is not in doubt however, is that almost across the board China is adopting increasingly coercive tactics to get its way with allies, adversaries and those it views as in between. It’s a dynamic the United States and its regional and global partners have yet to find a strategy to manage.
U.S. officials had hoped this week’s meeting between Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin would mark a turning point in relations after a tense meeting in Alaska earlier this year.