As China ups the ante near Taiwan with military exercises designed to encircle the self-ruled island, Beijing may not have an invasion on its mind but rather another approach: a blockade.

The People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) increasingly frequent exercises around Taiwan, particularly its long-range deployments in the Pacific, indicate that Beijing is refining a strategy to cut the island off from the outside world and keep Taipei's potential military partners at bay.

“China likely has the capabilities to conduct an aerial and naval blockade per what we know of their military capabilities, force structure and the military exercises we’ve seen them undertake in the past year,” said Kristen Gunness, a security expert and senior policy researcher at the U.S.-based Rand Corp.