China is preparing to construct an airport on land reclaimed from the sea near Taiwan, as the communist regime continues to ramp up pressure on the island nation following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
According to the South China Morning Post, “under the new document released by Fujian, a province across the strait from Taiwan, the new airport is planned between the islets of Dasha and Xiaosha, off the east coast of Pingtan county.”
Pingtan, which sits as an island off the coast of the Chinese mainland, is home to a “free trade zone” established by Beijing in 2013 to expand economic cooperation with Taiwan. It is also the closest point between mainland China and Taiwan.
Local reporting from China indicates that the airport is set to cost approximately three billion yuan ($463 million), and “will be built on land claimed from the sea as part of Fujian’s plan to transform Pingtan island into a transport and logistics hub.” The extent to which the new airfield will be utilized for military purposes remains unclear, however.
According to the Post, “between 2011 and 2015 alone, China invested over 250 billion yuan to improve infrastructure in Pingtan.” In 2016, the communist regime even went as far as to propose a high-speed railway system connecting Beijing to Tapei through Pingtan, a plan that was most recently incorporated into the country’s “National Comprehensive Transportation Network Plan” released in March.
Moreover, the infrastructural buildup of Pingtan has received public support from Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has called on Fujian to “be bold in exploring new paths for integrated cross-Strait development,” with the ultimate goal of “reunification [sic] of the motherland.” Taiwan has openly rejected Beijing’s plans, arguing that all plans were made unilaterally and that there is no need for a bridge connected to the mainland.
The announcement of the new airport comes following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which China has been using to ramp up pressure on Tapei. On Tuesday, Chinese military forces conducted air and sea drills in the waters near Taiwan, with the state-run Global Times also warning of an impending Chinese invasion of the island.
“From what happened in Afghanistan, [Taiwan] should perceive that once a war breaks out in the Straits, the island’s defense will collapse in hours and the US military won’t come to help,” the paper wrote. “As a result, the [Democratic Progressive Party] DPP authorities will quickly surrender, while some high-level officials may flee by plane.”