Cai Hui Chun has lived her whole life under the roar of fighter planes. In her hometown of Hualien, on the east coast of Taiwan, she can be seen and heard everywhere, taking off from the local air base.
But over the past year, leagues and workouts have grown almost steadily. “They used to do two sorties in the morning,” said the retired teacher. “They are now active in the afternoon as well, and even take off at night more and more.”
Aircraft were stamped out in response to Increasing harassment From China, which claims Taiwan as its territory and threatens invasion if Taipei refuses to submit indefinitely. Last week, the Chinese military said it conducted live-fire exercises in waters and airspace southwest and southeast of Taiwan.
Beijing’s more aggressive stance has alarmed the United States, the unofficial protector of Taiwan. In March, Admiral Philip Davidson, then commander of US forces in the Pacific, said that a Chinese attack on Taiwan It could be launched in six years.
But on the ground in Taiwan, there is no sign of panic.
“We’re used to it,” Tsai said of the aerial activity. Rather than a threat from China, she would rather talk about pension reforms that have slashed her retirement income.
“What you see is not the fear you expect,” said Richard Bush, a Taiwan expert at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
according to vote Published in April, only 39.6 percent of respondents believe that China and Taiwan are headed for military conflict. Although that number is up from 35 percent last year and only 25 percent in 2004, more than half of Taiwan’s residents still think so. War can be avoided entirely.
While President Tsai Ing-wen and her government frequently highlight Taiwan’s plight as a target of Chinese aggression against the international community, they have done little to make it happen. The country is hardening Against an attack from Beijing, or even prepare the community for the possibility of war.
pointing to Afghanistan government After the Taliban overran the army the moment the United States withdrew from the country, Tsai told her citizens that they would have to stand together to avoid a similar fate at the hands of China.
“The only option for Taiwan is to make ourselves stronger, more united and more determined to protect ourselves,” she said. books on Facebook on Wednesday.
But for most ordinary Taiwanese, there is hardly a flash of anxiety.
“There is a lack of discussion, a clear realization of what the threat is,” said Bush, who argued in a recent book that Taiwan’s democracy has failed to address how the country can survive and maintain its “good life.”
“What we’ve seen is an avoidance of basic reality, of real choices.”
Public opinion, which had never supported unity, became more hostile to Beijing. Since early 2019, when Chinese President Xi Jinping refused flexibility in offering a political deal to Taiwan, and during Beijing’s campaign on Hong Kong’s autonomy, pro-independence Morale rose to historic highs.
Young people are more anti-China than society as a whole, as evidenced by the 2014 student Sunflower movement against the previous administration’s involvement with China.
“Since 2014, people have had this natural aversion to anything that has to do with China,” says Liu Kuan Yen, editor of the online English edition of The Commonwealth, a Taiwanese news magazine.
The government argues that Taiwanese want peace but know that the risk of conflict is always there.
However, Liu blames Tsai’s DPP for channeling patriotism and rejecting China the wrong way.
The government should raise people’s awareness of the military threat. But instead of doing real things, they just talk and tell people to hate China and love the US and Japan.
The Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Taiwan also gained momentum the following summer Donations From the US and Japan, many Taiwanese posted pictures of their vaccination records on Facebook with the words “Thank you Dad America!”
Critics said Tsai’s administration has fueled complacency by highlighting Taiwan’s strong ties with Washington. “The public will think we are safe, America loves us and will come to our rescue when the time is right — that removes the desire for self-reliance,” Liu said.
But the root cause of Taiwan’s failure to address the military threat is not a lack of government leadership. The Kuomintang, the former Chinese ruling party that fled to Taiwan after its defeat in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, was ruled by martial law for 38 years.
Taking pride in their hard-won democracy, which has created a social welfare system and the most socially advanced society in Asia, the Taiwanese public has no appetite for the militarization of society or even the discussion of defense.
But there are some attempts to change this mindset.
Enoch Wu, a former special forces officer who heads the Taipei branch of the Democratic Progressive Party, has teamed up with Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, the former chief of the Taiwan Army’s General Staff, to educate the public on how Taiwan can best resist the Chinese invasion. It also organizes seminars on safety and first aid for young people.
“We get thousands of sign-ups to these events. It tells me that people understand that we have serious security challenges and they believe that everyone can do more.
But his audience remains limited and for some Taiwanese, there is a sense of futility. Tsai Hui-chun, a retired teacher, believes that although she does not want Taiwan to become part of China, this will eventually happen.
“When they come one day,” she said, “what can we do about it anyway?”