A military exercise broadcast by Chinese state media has set off alarms amongst Taiwanese media outlets, particularly because one shot clearly shows mainland generals with a map of Taiwan hanging in the background.
The broadcast, parts of which are viewable below, aired on September 12 by China Central Television (CCTV). It focuses on the People’s Liberation Army “Mission 2013B”, a series of joint military exercises initiated on the 11th and attended by more than 20,000 PLA soldiers stationed in the Guangzhou Military Region, one of China’s seven military administrative areas.
Showcasing footage of squadron exercises, missile launches and various helicopter and tank drills, the broadcast is also noteworthy for one shot depicting PLA generals and personnel in a military conference room where various maps are displayed along the wall. One of these is a map of Taiwan that zeroes in on the Penghu islands, a 64-island archipelago located off the coast of western Taiwan and formerly under the jurisdiction of the island’s local government.
The United Daily News, one of the largest newspapers in Taiwan, argued in an editorial on the 14th that the framing of this shot was no coincidence, and its placement on military CCTV news was “intentionally leaked” and held “subtle intentions that were worth paying attention to.”
Citing Taiwanese media analysts, the United Daily News also reported that one of the squadrons engaged in the Mission 2013B exercises was the 42nd Army of the PLA, a unit that had previously participated in the Korean war and the Sino-Vietnamese war. Various media outlets, and articles written on Chinese online encyclopedia Baidu, have speculated that the 42nd Army might play a prominent role in the event of any PLA military action against Taiwan.
Not all Taiwanese news agencies were alarmed at the CCTV broadcast. Taiwan’s Central News Agency argued that since the squadrons participating in the Mission 2013B exercises were all stationed in southern China’s Guangzhou Military Region, “it was not surprising” that a map of Taiwan would be prominently displayed in military headquarters – especially since Taiwan’s Penghu islands have also been the site of military drills that have simulated a hostile PLA takeover.
Located about 150 kilometres from the mainland, Penghu was host to a series of live-fire drills in April 2013. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou presided over the drills, arguing that they were needed to test the defence capabilities of the Taiwanese military in the case of a potential mainland attack.