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A video showing a massive anti-aircraft operation started circulating on social media on July 30. People online claimed that the video showed a military exercise carried out by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to deter the potential visit of the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by Beijing. But the operation in the video was actually an annual military exercise in Taiwan carried out in 2020.
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Ahead of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s expected visit to Taiwan during her trip to the Indo-Pacific region, the Chinese government has issued multiple warnings to the White House, as it considers visits by US officials formal diplomatic engagement with Taiwan.
Shortly before Pelosi embarked on her journey to Asia, a video showing an anti-aircraft exercise went viral on social media. Many claimed that it was a military operation that took place in the coastal area of Fujian Province, China, in order to deter Pelosi from landing in Taiwan.
In fact, it was an annual military exercise by Taiwan's military forces in the Matsu Islands of the Lienchiang Country in 2020.
The fact-check in detail
Earlier this year, the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to visit Taiwan, eliciting major opposition from the Chinese government, which claims the island as its own territory. The trip was postponed after she contracted Covid-19, calming tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
However, the pressure has mounted once again as Pelosi arrived in the Indo-Pacific on August 1, visiting Singapore as US and Taiwanese officials announced that she was expected to visit Taiwan.
The politician, who has long been on Beijing’s blacklist, was accused by the Chinese authorities of disturbing the peace of the Indo-Pacific region. China also threatened there would be consequences if the US continued to “encourage Taiwan’s independence” by carrying out diplomatic activities.
As Pelosi began her trip on July 31, a video which has been viewed more than 80 thousand times went viral online, with captions indicating that Beijing carried out a major military drill to deter Pelosi’s visit.
In the video, we can see the night sky lit up by a large-scale anti-aircraft operation. Some who shared the video claimed it showed Beijing flexing its military power near the Taiwan Strait to force Pelosi to cancel her visit to Taiwan.
“Crazy Nancy Pelosi better ask that pilot to make a U-turn!” read one tweet posted by an account which regularly shares pro-China posts. “She is provoking and playing with fire.”
In the comments below this tweet, however, some users shared the truth: the clip was actually a military exercise carried out by Taiwan in 2020. One user also attached a screenshot of a post from 2020 on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, that contained the video.
The FRANCE 24 Observers team took a closer look at what really happened in 2020.
An article published on Youth Daily News, a newspaper run by Taiwan’s government that covers military news, mentions the operation on November 7, 2020. Photos also show a number of anti-aircraft weapons lighting up the sky during the exercise.
By searching on Youtube with the keywords in mandarin such as “Matsu”, “anti-aircraft exercise”, and “2022” we found a video of the same military exercise filmed from a different angle recorded in 2020. See here to learn more about how you can verify a video online.
Additionally, the drill was reported on Taiwanese television.
So, while the military operation did take place around the Taiwan Strait, it was carried out by the military forces of Taiwan, not the People’s Liberation Army of China. The drill took place two years ago, and the location where the exercise happened was actually Matsu Islands in Taiwan, instead of Fujian Province, China.
However, China did announce that it would hold a series of military exercises in the South China Sea from July 27 and 31, including live-fire drills in Fujian province, across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan.
Whether Beijing will further its aggression toward Taiwan for Pelosi’s potential trip to the island remains in question, but the military operation in this video certainly has nothing to do with the House Speaker’s trip.