August 12, 2022

Kinmen County, Taiwan – The San Xiao Fort Cafe on Kinmen Island may be the best place in Taiwan to watch the threat of invasion by China. With a direct view of the Chinese city of Xiamen only six miles away, it is built atop an old military bunker, fitted with camouflage netting, and serves hot and cold drinks.

with Chinese warships now off the coast of Taiwan and its sea-falling missilesThe divided allegiance of the cafe’s two owners says a lot about a generational shift in Taiwan that has changed the island democracy’s ties with China.

If China tried to take Taiwan by force, 32-year-old Chiang Chung-chih would fight, albeit with a slim chance of winning. Ting I-hsiu, 52, said he would “surrender.”

With a culture crafted by ages of indigenous peoples, hundreds of years of Chinese immigration, Japanese colonial occupation and a harsh period of martial lawTaiwan is not monolithic. During its three decades as a democracy, conflicting allegiances have dominated its politics, with debates over whether breaking China’s claims by age, identity and geography accommodated China’s claims. to do or not.

In recent years, under increasing hostility from China, the middle has changed, Now, more and more Taiwanese identify themselves as separate from China. To them, China represents a potential threat to a pluralistic and democratic way of life. They do not consider Taiwan to be part of a long-divided family, as Mr. Ting and several older, friendly Chinese people describe the relationship.

Even on China’s closest islands to Taiwan, which have historically been more friendly towards their neighbor, Mr. Ting is a dying breed. Paradoxically the older generation, which remembers China’s attacks from decades ago more deeply, is most suited to the nation. Beneficiaries of Chinese economic liberalization and educationists who emphasized Chinese ties remember the years when China opened up to the world and made many wealthy before Xi Jinping became the top leader. For young Taiwanese, their view of China is similar to that coined by Mr. Xi, a conservative land bent on denying their ability to choose their own leaders.

Although Mr. Chiang has had similar experiences to Mr. Ting – both of whom have spent time in China and most of their lives in Kinmen – they prize Taiwan’s openness and feel threatened by Beijing. “I cherish Taiwan’s freedom and democracy and do not want to unite with others,” he said.

Decades of democratic rule as well as China’s relentless efforts to isolate Taiwan and, more recently, Hong Kong’s approach to dismantling democratic institutions, have informed low response In response to many Chinese military exercises Visiting Speaker Nancy Pelosi, This is what many people have come to expect from China.

Even in the San Gio Fort Café, which was built on a piece of historical damage from the not-so-distant past of direct military confrontation, there has been an indifference to new threats. Unlike the rusting tanks on the beach below, reminiscent of the days when the two sides traded artillery fire, the drills have been played far out in the skies and at sea. The provocative launch of at least 11 missiles by China on the first day of the exercise, one of which was passed over Taiwan, has remained invisible to most.

Despite being only 25 miles from a staging ground for the exercises, life proceeded as normal, off the coast of Taiwan’s Matsu Islands, an archipelago near mainland China. A volunteer beach cleanup continued, with Taiwanese soldiers loading artillery shells into a transport boat. Many said that things were worse before.

Hardened by decades of military standoff, older residents strained off. During the US-China standoff in 1995 and 1996 before Taiwan’s first direct presidential election, he recalled how people fled small islands and ran to banks to cash in on life savings during Chinese military operations.

“People were running to save their lives,” said 62-year-old Pao Yu-ling.

Ms. Pao is convinced that like last time, nothing special will come of it. This is a rare pact with his 35-year-old daughter, Chang I-chih.

He has little recollection of previous military exercises during the Third Taiwan Straits Crisis, as the standoff came to be known at that time. Instead, she said Chinese sand dredgers, which have recently pounded the seas near the islands, were a more obvious sign of China’s aggression.

Now she looks at China’s authoritarianism critically. While her mother believes economic growth should come first and admires new buildings being built on nearby Chinese islands, Ms Chang said freedom and democracy are paramount.

“Sun Yat-sen, our founding father, took so long to win the revolution to get us out of the dictatorship, why should we go back?” he said.

The trend is even more pronounced from China, on the island of Taiwan itself, where most of the 23 million people live. There Jessica Fang, a 26-year-old consultant in the central city of Changhua, said that along with democratic values, the constant threat of attack is increasingly baked into the worldview of her generation.

With current tensions, many watching from outside Taiwan think Taiwanese people will “hysterically” stockpile food and draw up evacuation plans, Ms Fang said, adding she was hurt by the notion. “Taiwanese people appear calm in the face of rising tension, not because of ignorance or naivete, but because it is accepted – even internally – as a part of being Taiwanese. in,” she said.

Still, it acknowledged that China’s recent military stance has prompted it to take the possibility of an attack more seriously. If the Taiwan Strait becomes a battleground, Ms Fang said she would send her parents to a safer place, then stop and fight, although she acknowledged, taking up arms may not be the most effective way for her to contribute could.

A handful of people caught a glimpse of the exercise on the islands of Taiwan near China. On Kinmen, Chiu Yi-huan, a 39-year-old owner of an independent bookstore, said she felt a shock wave on Thursday. “At first I thought it was thunder, then I realized it wasn’t,” she said.

Still, she was unconcerned. “It reminds me of my childhood memories of dodging bombs,” she said, adding that existing threats were no bigger than in the past.

To the north, on the island chain of Matsu, 16-year-old high school student Tsai Hao-min said she heard an explosive sound and saw a brief burst of light. He showed an image captured on his phone of two parallel contrails rising off the coast of China.

During his stay in China, Mr. Tsai came to admire aspects such as the country’s economic development and technical prowess. Nevertheless, he said that he planned to join the Taiwanese army when he was old enough. It prefers Taiwan for its freedom of expression.

It is important for the Chinese Communist Party and Mr. Xi to be his primary form of political affiliation by creating memes to troll online.

In response to rising tensions with China, he crafted a meme from images from the British sitcom, “Mr. Bean,” which featured the Titanic character checking his watch and falling asleep. On top of them, he added his message: “So is the party going to attack?” Referring to the Chinese Communist Party by a derogatory nickname.

He said his view on China was unanimously shared by his friends and he did not take the possibility of an invasion seriously. As was often the case, he said, China’s fury was meant to be shown.

“Two missiles made for beautiful pictures. If they have so much money, why don’t they shoot more,” he said.

Amy Chang Chien Reported from Kinmen County, john liu Reported from Matsu Islands and Paul Mozur Reported from Taipei.

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