t was a deliberate provocation, patriotically timed. On October 1st, the country’s national day, China flew 38 aircraft, including fighter jets and bombers, towards Taiwan (one type, the j-16, is pictured). They entered the island’s Air Defence Identification Zone (adiz), a buffer region where intrusions often prompt military alerts. It was the year’s daily record. Over the next three days China sent another 111 planes. In response, Taiwan scrambled jets, broadcast warnings and tracked the Chinese aircraft with missile systems. The island’s defence minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, called it “the toughest situation I have seen in more than 40 years of my military life”.
The skies around Taiwan were quieter as The Economist went to press. On October 6th China flew no military planes through the adiz. So far none of the flights has crossed into Taiwan’s territorial airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles (about 22km) from the island. The intruders typically fly 35 nautical miles or more from the Taiwanese coast. But American officials clearly share Mr Chiu’s anxiety. On October 6th America’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, called on China to halt its “provocative” activity near Taiwan. Also that day, Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, conveyed America’s concern at a meeting in Switzerland with Yang Jiechi, China’s most senior diplomat and a member of the ruling Politburo.