BEIJING -- On the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin's unilateral decision to declare as independent two separatist regions of Ukraine, Chinese authorities are ominously reasserting that Taiwan is part of China.
"Taiwan has always been an inalienable part of China's territory. This is an irrefutable historical and legal fact," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference Wednesday (February 23).
These and other statements from Chinese officials came after observers drew comparisons between Taiwan and Ukraine.
The self-ruled island's president said that Beijing was using evidence of Russian aggression to hurt Taiwanese morale.
Democratic Taiwan has watched the Ukraine situation closely as it lives under constant threat of a Chinese invasion, with Beijing claiming sovereignty over the island and vowing to seize it one day -- by force if necessary.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen Wednesday said "external forces" were "attempting to manipulate the situation in Ukraine and affect the morale in Taiwan's society", and urged the government to be "more vigilant against cognitive warfare".
Beijing has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016, as she rejects the stance that the island is Chinese territory. She was re-elected in 2020.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said last year that China had launched a disinformation campaign aimed at seizing the island "without a fight".
Tsai on Wednesday also told national security and military units to remain vigilant and to step up surveillance of military activities around Taiwan.
The final quarter of 2021 saw a dramatic spike in incursions by Chinese warplanes into Taiwan's air defence identification zone.
Last year, Taiwan recorded 969 such incursions, according to a database compiled by AFP -- more than double the roughly 380 in 2020.
Beijing has trod a cautious line on Ukraine but offered increasing support to Putin.
Putin on Monday said Ukraine is a "country created by Russia" and that it was wrong to let the Soviet Union fall apart and let Ukraine and the other Soviet republics go their own way.
Hours after the televised speech, Putin instructed his Defence Ministry to assume "the function of peacekeeping" in the separatist-held regions, paving the way for direct Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine.
Russia is estimated to have between 150,000 and 190,000 troops already surrounding Ukraine.
'World safe for authoritarianism'
Infuriated by a common threat -- countries with increasingly Western-style democracies on their borders -- Putin and China's Xi Jinping earlier this month vowed to stick together in a "new era" of global political and military order.
The two powers signed a joint statement, agreeing on multiple foreign policy goals including no further expansion of NATO and that Taiwan is an "inalienable part of China".
Chinese officials have also repeatedly sided with Russia in blaming the West for the tensions over Ukraine, accusing it of a "Cold War mentality" while describing Moscow's security concerns as "reasonable".
"Friendship between the two states has no limits," Putin and Xi said in a joint statement released after the meeting. "There are no 'forbidden' areas of co-operation."
The Chinese military has become more aggressive in recent years, making incursions into the territory of other sovereign nations in a trend that is alarming neighbouring countries and concerned members of the international community.