Many people in Taiwan look upon China’s military exercises over the past week with calm resignation, doubting that war is imminent and if anything, feeling pride in their nation’s determination to defend itself.
After a visit to Taiwan last week by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China has sent ships and aircraft across an unofficial buffer between Taiwan and China’s coast and missiles over Taipei and into waters surrounding the nation since Thursday last week.
However, Rosa Chang, proudly watching her son take part in Taiwanese military exercises that included dozens of howitzers firing shells into the Taiwan Strait off Pingtung County, said that China’s behavior was “childish.”
Photo: Ann Wang, Reuters
“It’s like a group of children threatening you and telling you what to do... China really doesn’t have to do all this,” Chang said.
Lou Wei-chieh (樓偉傑), a military director general of political warfare, told reporters that the annual live-fire exercises aimed at beating back invaders intent on storming beaches, were routine and “unrelated to the current situation.”
Taiwan says China was using Pelosi’s trip as a pretext for intimidation it had long had in the works.
“We’re just ordinary people, there’s nothing we can do,” said a man who gave his name as Chen, also watching the Pingtung drills. “If anything happens, there’s nothing we can do.”
Many in Taiwan say they are accustomed to decades of saber rattling and see little cause for alarm.
An opinion poll published this week by Taiwan’s Chinese Association of Public Opinion Research showed that 60 percent of respondents were either not that worried or not worried at all that there would be a war between Taiwan and China.
“We’re not feeling particularly nervous,” said Jenny Cheng, a 23-year-old civil servant. “Nothing special is going to happen.”
Others have rallied round to support the government’s defiance.
Robert Tsao (曹興誠), founder and former chairman of Taiwanese chip maker United Microelectronics Corp, last week pledged to donate NT$3 billion (US$100 million) to help Taiwan bolster its defenses.
China this week said that it would conduct more drills focusing on anti-submarine and sea assault operations — confirming the fears of some security analysts and diplomats that it would keep up the pressure on Taiwan’s defenses.
However, on Siaoliouciou Island (小琉球), a picturesque tourist spot near one of the areas where the Chinese military was conducting exercises last week, people were largely indifferent.
“It feels very normal,” said Chung Ping, 30, who owns a diving hostel.
He said that no one had canceled their holiday bookings.
“It’s unlikely that conflict will happen,” he said.
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