Cai Huizhen has lived in the roar of fighter jets all her life. They can be seen everywhere in her hometown of Hualien on the east coast of Taiwan, taking off from the local air force base.

But in the past year, patrols and exercises have almost always increased. “They used to be out a few times in the morning,” said the retired teacher. “Now they are also very active in the afternoon, and even take off more and more frequently in the evening.”

The jet was scrambled to deal with Increasing harassment China claims Taiwan is its territory and threatens to invade if Taipei refuses to surrender indefinitely. Last week, the Chinese military stated that it held live-fire exercises in the waters and airspaces of southwest and southeast Taiwan.

Beijing’s more belligerent stance shocked the United States as Taiwan’s unofficial protector. In March, Admiral Philip Davidson, then commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, stated, China attacked Taiwan Can be launched within six years.

But on the ground in Taiwan, there is no sign of panic.

“We are used to it,” Cai said of the aerial activities. She would rather talk about pension reforms that cut her retirement income than threats from China.

Analysts warn that Taiwan is evading “underlying reality” when it comes to China. ©Jiang Yingying/Associated Press

Richard Bush, an expert on Taiwan issues at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said: “What you see is not the fear you expected.”

According to a polling In the report released in April, only 39.6% of the interviewees believed that China and Taiwan were heading for a military conflict.Although this number is up from 35% last year and 25% in 2004, more than half of Taiwanese still believe War can be avoided common.

Although President Tsai Ing-wen and her government often emphasized to the international community that Taiwan’s plight was the target of Chinese aggression, they hardly took any action. Powerful country Resist attacks from Beijing and even prepare society for the possibility of war.

direction Afghan government At the moment the United States withdrew from the country and the army was occupied by the Taliban, Cai told her compatriots that they must stand together to avoid a similar fate from falling into Chinese hands.

She said: “Taiwan’s only option is to make itself stronger, more united, and more determined to protect itself.” wrote On Facebook on Wednesday.

But for most ordinary Taiwanese, there is hardly a trace of worry.

“There is a lack of discussion and a clear awareness of what the threat is,” Bush said, arguing in a recent book that Taiwan’s democracy has failed to solve the problem of how the country survives and maintains its “good life.”

“What we are seeing is avoiding the underlying reality, avoiding the real choice.”

Formation flying of Taiwan F-16 fighter jets
In response to China’s growing aggression, Taiwan rushes jet aircraft more frequently © Reuters

Public opinion that has never been in favor of reunification is becoming increasingly hostile to Beijing. Since Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to provide Taiwan with flexibility for political agreements in early 2019, and during Beijing’s suppression of Hong Kong’s autonomy, Support independence Sentiment has risen to historical highs.

Young people are more anti-China than society as a whole, and this is reflected in the 2014 sunflower students protesting the previous government’s contact with China.

“Since 2014, people have had this natural aversion to everything related to China,” said Liu Guanyin, editor of the English online edition of Taiwanese news magazine CommonWealth.

The government argues that Taiwanese want peace but know that the risk of conflict is always there.

However, Liu accused Cai’s Democratic Progressive Party of spreading patriotism and rejection of China in the wrong way.

“The government should raise people’s awareness of military threats. But they didn’t do real things, just talk empty talk, telling people to hate China, love the United States and Japan,” she said.

As Taiwan’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign gained attention this summer Donate Many Taiwanese from the United States and Japan posted photos of their vaccination records on Facebook with the words “Thank you, American Dad!”

Critics say that the Tsai Ing-wen’s government’s emphasis on the growing relationship between Taiwan and Washington has contributed to complacency. Liu said: “The public will think that we are safe and that the United States loves us and will save us when it has to-this will eliminate the urge to be self-reliant.”

But the root cause of Taiwan’s failure to respond to military threats is not a lack of government leadership. The Kuomintang was the former ruling party in China. It fled to Taiwan after being defeated in the civil war in 1949 and ruled under martial law for 38 years.

Cherishing the hard-won democracy has created a social welfare system and the most progressive society in Asia. The public in Taiwan has no appetite for a militarized society or even discuss defense.

But there are some attempts to change this mentality.

Enoch, chairman of the Taipei branch of the Democratic Progressive Party and a former special forces officer, worked with Admiral Li Ximing, the former chief of the general staff of the Taiwan army, to educate the public on how Taiwan can better resist Chinese invasion. He also organizes safety and first aid seminars for young people.

“We are getting thousands of registrations for these events. This tells me that people realize that we face serious security challenges and believe that everyone can do more,” Wu said.

But his audience is still limited, and for some Taiwanese, there is a sense of vain. Retired teacher Cai Huizhen believes that although she does not want Taiwan to become part of China, it will eventually happen.

She said: “One day they come, what else can we do?”



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