China wary of Taiwan’s new missile: Real threat or psychological ploy

Taiwan’s recent test-fire of the Hsiung Feng IIE, a long-range land-attack cruise missile boasts the ability to strike deep into mainland China for the first time. While Taiwanese media hails it as a game-changer, Chinese media paints a different picture.

The test-firing of Taiwan’s Hsiung Feng IIE land-attack cruise missile sent ripples across the Taiwan Strait. Boasting a reported range of 1,200 kilometres, the missile could, for the first time, strike deep into Chinese territory. This development sparked both celebration in Taiwan and scepticism in China, raising questions about the missile’s true capabilities and its role in the ongoing tensions between the two sides.

Taiwanese media hailed the Hsiung Feng IIE as a game-changer, touting its ability to deter potential Chinese aggression by bringing key mainland targets within striking distance. However, Chinese media swiftly launched a counteroffensive, painting a less flattering picture of the missile. The state-backed magazine “Ordnance Industry Science Technology” criticized the Hsiung Feng IIE’s “relatively large size” and “subsonic speed,” suggesting it would be an easy target for advanced anti-air radar systems. The lack of stealth technology further fueled their argument, highlighting the missile’s vulnerability to detection. Additionally, the report questioned the Taiwanese military’s midcourse missile guidance capabilities, implying their ability to intercept the Hsiung Feng IIE would be limited.

Adding another layer to the complexity is the possibility of psychological warfare. Taiwan has previously accused China of using intimidation tactics to weaken public confidence in its military. In May 2023, Chinese researchers claimed they could destroy a U.S. aircraft carrier group defending Taiwan with just 24 hypersonic missiles, a statement dismissed by Taiwan as psychological warfare. Viewing the criticism of the Hsiung Feng IIE through this lens, some analysts suggest China might be aiming to downplay the threat and sow doubt within Taiwan.

Regardless of the missile’s true capabilities, its development undeniably reflects Taiwan’s determination to bolster its defence capabilities in the face of growing Chinese assertiveness. While the technical debate surrounding the Hsiung Feng IIE’s effectiveness continues, its symbolic message is clear: Taiwan is actively seeking ways to deter and defend against potential aggression.

Whether this new missile serves as a genuine deterrent or a calculated manoeuvre in the complex geopolitical chess game remains to be seen. The answer likely lies not only in the missile’s technical specifications but also in the broader context of the evolving relationship between Taiwan and China.