PINGTUNG: Many people on self-ruled Taiwan look upon China’s unprecedented military exercises with calm resignation, doubting that war is imminent and if anything, feeling pride in their democratic island’s determination to defend itself.
China, reacting to a visit to Taiwan last week by Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House speaker, has sent ships and aircraft across an unofficial buffer between Taiwan and China’s coast and missiles over its capital, Taipei, and into waters surrounding the island since Thursday.
But Rosa Chang, proudly watching her son take part in Taiwan military exercises that included dozens of howitzers firing shells into the Taiwan Strait off Pingtung, in the island’s far south, said China’s behaviour was “childish”.
“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, a military director general of political warfare, told reporters the annual live-fire exercises aimed at beating back invaders intent on storming island beaches, were routine and “unrelated to the current situation”.
China claims Taiwan as its own and has never ruled out taking it by force, if necessary.
Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims, says the island’s people should decide its future and vows to defend its democracy and freedom. 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 sabre-rattling and see little cause for alarm.
Taiwan has lived under the threat of Chinese invasion since 1949 when the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island after defeat in a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist Party.
An opinion poll published this week by Taiwan’s Chinese Association of Public Opinion Research showed that 60% 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 Taiwan government’s defiance.
Robert Tsao, founder and former chairman of Taiwanese chip maker United Microelectronics Corp, last week pledged to donate NT$3 billion ($100 million) to help Taiwan bolster its defences.
China said this week 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 defences.
But on Liuqiu island, 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 no one had cancelled their holiday bookings.
“It’s unlikely that conflict will happen.” - REUTERS