We started before dawn to drive to Taiwan’s southernmost point.
This remote, wind-swept spot offers a rare insight into the potentially dangerous standoff above.
You can see the ocean from a hilltop, with the Pacific Ocean to your east and the Bashi Channel to your south. The view is also visible across Taiwan Strait.
Our host is an ex-Navy radar operator and radio enthusiast.
Robin Hsu visits this spot nearly every day with a car equipped with an antenna and audio receivers homemade.
He claims it is the best spot on the island for listening to fighter jet activity.
His kit captures many mundane communications, such as the crew of nearby vessels conversing, or air traffic control directing commercial planes.
Others are more extraordinary than us, and we were able to hear them all quickly.
“You are jeopardizing our safety”
Robin’s speakers are rigged to produce a loud, crackling sound that is loud and clear. It is a Mandarin voice identifying itself as the Taiwanese military, with a clear direction towards Chinese fighter jets.
It barks, “You have entered our southeast ADIZ [air defense identification zone]”,
“You are putting your safety at risk, please turn around immediately and get out of the way.”
A similar message is delivered just a few seconds later.
Robin says, “This is normal.”
This is evidence that a Chinese fighter plane has crossed Taiwanese skies, crossing what is known as the Median Line. It’s the maritime border between them.
China regards Taiwan as its self-governing democracy. Xi Jinping has made it a priority to take control of Taiwan. These flights are part of a larger picture of increased pressure.
Robin keeps track of interactions like these every day and says that he has seen a significant increase in interaction since 2020, when he started recording them.
The number of Chinese jets that travel has increased fivefold
His observations are supported by statistics, which show that the number of Chinese planes taking these trips has increased fivefold between 2020 and 2022.
He also has recordings of an American voice warning Chinese planes.
It states, “I am a United States military plane, conducting lawful military activities, in international airspace, and exercises as guaranteed by international law.”
“I am operating in accordance with the rights, duties and duties of all States.”
Robin believes that the tone can sometimes be deliberately mocking or provocative.
Perhaps most interestingly, he occasionally hears Chinese pilots. He says the Chinese voices are not coming from military command but from the planes.
One is warning US aircraft not to get too close to Chinese airspace.
It states, “This is the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] Air Force.” “You have entered China’s territorial airspace.”
Then, in English, it is a strong and clear: “Leave immediately. Leave immediately.”
Robin says, “You can tell they are nervous.”
They may be. These flights can be extremely risky. One mistake by either side in these tense and stressful situations could quickly escalate into serious conflict.
Robin uploads his recordings to his Facebook page. He spends a lot of time and money on this endeavor, so why is he doing it?
He believes that Taiwanese officials in the past wanted people to believe that things are peaceful and there is no risk to the island.
“But the Chinese Communist Party’s military jets, CCP, are always around you, and around me.”
He wants the public to be aware of the danger so that Taiwan can be prepared in case it comes.
He says, “I love my country.” This is my duty.”