Tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers, using missiles and bombs, shot their way onto "enemy" beaches in a mock invasion of Taiwan earlier this month, China's state-run media announced today.
The exercises in southern China's Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces were the biggest demonstration of China's military might since Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui infuriated Chinese leaders when he called on China to treat Taiwan as an equal state.
Soldiers were shown on the evening news scorching an urban area with flamethrowers as part of their massive landing operation. The scenes were intended to increase pressure on Lee to reverse his stance and to demonstrate China's military might.
"The military exercises provided a spectacular sight of a straits-crossing and landing operation by Chinese forces armed with high-tech weapons," according to the official New China News Agency. The 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait separates the two sides.
But military analysts said the footage showed preparations for a military operation that is unlikely to occur. Beijing considers Taiwan part of China and has vowed that it will invade Taiwan if it declares independence. But Lee has not made such a declaration. Experts say that if China chooses military action to punish Lee, it would be limited.
For instance, China has 120,000 fishing boats in the provinces across the strait from Taiwan, according to Andrew Yang, a military analyst at the Taipei-based Council of Advanced Policy Studies. China could authorize them to fish in Taiwan's waters, and send military ships to escort them, he said.
"They can conduct non-lethal, low-intensity guerrilla warfare in the strait," he said. "I don't think Beijing will take the first shot. If they push Taiwan to take the first shot, then they have an excuse."