After the Chinese military fired missiles into the waters surrounding Taiwan in early August and the international media focused on the possibility of war, many Taiwanese-Australians were adamant that “the life must go on”.
While escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait were concerning, Sydney resident Austin Tuon said it was nothing new for the self-governing island.
“I think we’re really worried…this time around, yes, it’s concerning for all of us, but Taiwanese people are very resilient and they know life goes on,” the former Australian Taiwanese chairman said. Friendship Association (ATFA).
“It’s something they don’t want to panic about, they have to keep earning a living and making the best of a situation, playing the cards that are dealt to them.
“I commend the Taiwanese people for being so resilient.”
The last time Beijing fired live missiles near Taiwan was more than 20 years ago, in 1996, after the island held its first direct presidential vote.
On Aug. 4, China deployed more than 100 aircraft in its largest-ever drill in the Taiwan Strait, a day after U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. Taiwan.
Ms Pelosi had made the trip, despite protests from Beijing, to show that ‘America stands with Taiwan’ in a show of support for the island which she called a ‘special place’ with ‘the one of the freest democracies in the world.
I commend the Taiwanese people for being so resilient.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV said fighter jets and bombers and more than 10 warships had been activated.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has threatened to claim the self-governing island by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is already its own democratic state and has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr. Tuon remembers the last “alert” in 1996, or what was called the third Taiwan Strait crisis.
“It’s not something new. But this time… it’s a bit more aggressive, the scale is bigger,” he said.
While relations between China and Taiwan have steadily deteriorated in recent years, Peter Huang said “it looks like more tension” after Ms Pelosi’s visit and that the current situation was “dangerous”.
“I’m probably the youngest [Taiwanese] generation in Australia that remembers the 1996 missile crisis,” he said.
Austin Tuon says the risk of incidents during military exercises in the Taiwan Strait is still a concern. Source: Provided / deep photography
“In the past 30 years, I’ve never experienced this kind of attention to Taiwan issues, but starting in 2018…Taiwan has been in the news constantly, whether in Australia or in other countries. other parts of the western world,” he said.
“Whether [Nancy] Pelosi wants to visit Taiwan… that’s really our business. And no one should have a say in that… [the] China’s military threat and sanctions is completely unacceptable.
The risk of collateral damage
Responding to public concerns about whether the Chinese missiles fired on August 4 passed over the main island of Taiwan, Taiwan’s defense ministry said they flew high into the atmosphere and did not posed no threat.
Mr Tuon said he was more concerned about miscalculations during missile launches.
“As you can see a lot of the missiles, they’re kind of strategically placed on the trade routes…they’re using it as a deterrent and a show of force to shut down your trade routes, shut down your shipping, temporarily block your sea routes , ” he said.
“It’s definitely a tactic that they [China] know very well, and it’s something they know how to do very well.”
A member of the People’s Liberation Army looks through binoculars during military exercises as the Taiwanese frigate Lan Yang is seen astern August 5. Credit: Lin Jian/AP
Mr Tuon said the biggest concern was the thought of an accident during military exercises.
“Maybe one of the missiles…something happens unexpectedly (and it) could escalate the situation very quickly. So I think that’s what most people are concerned about,” he said. declared.
“You can see that even the Chinese had no intention of what happened when a few of their missiles entered Japanese waters.”
Five ballistic missiles fired by China appear to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on August 4, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said, as part of China-initiated military drills.
Taiwan is still ‘safe enough’
Aileen Yen is the current president of ATFA and said Taiwanese-Australians continue to travel to Taiwan despite rising tensions and COVID-19 quarantine rules.
“Since the easing of quarantine restrictions and I believe it was around June, July… a lot of people have gone back to [Taiwan] and visited family,” she said.
Whether [Nancy] Pelosi wants to visit Taiwan… that’s really our business.
“We haven’t seen them [family] for two and a half years, myself included. If it wasn’t for the fact that I can’t really drop everything and go back to quarantine, I would go.
“So I think that says that the Taiwanese community considers Taiwan safe enough to visit, despite the military exercises.”
Different voices in the Taiwanese community
While many Taiwanese-Australians supported Ms Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, Mr Tuon acknowledged that a “minority” was against it.
“But as you can see, probably in the international news and also in the Taiwanese media, there are different voices in Taiwan…there is a minority that opposes the visit just because, you know, they feel like she’s ‘stirring the pot’.”
From my circles… we’re all very supportive of Nancy Pelosi’s visit because if [the] The Chinese don’t want to be our friends, we have to have other friends to rely on.
But Mr. Tuon said this example of free speech was part of Taiwan’s thriving democracy.
“That’s the real value of democracy and freedom of speech, you are allowed to go out in public and express your opinion, without fear of prosecution. I welcome different voices, that’s what makes our democracy great,” Tuon said.
“And I think Taiwan has really, really blossomed over the past 50 years, we’ve really gone the other way.”
Mr Huang said the views of older Taiwanese-Australians differed from those of younger generations.
Taiwanese-Australians are campaigning for Taiwan to join the World Health Organization. Source: Provided / deep photography
“There are a lot of pro-Taiwan separatists, saying ‘well, we’ve been threatened by China for over 30 years, so nothing happened’… so they’re [China] not going to do anything,” he said.
“But there’s another half – the older generations – who have just the same fear that I just mentioned, whereas the younger ones, I don’t think many of them understand the context of the risks involved. in that.”
Peter Huang. Source: Provided / deep photography
“I don’t think this is news”
Jennifer Hsu, researcher at said Australian media reporting on recent China-Taiwanese tensions focused on the US-China rivalry with Taiwan caught in the middle, giving “little importance to how Taiwanese in Taiwan think about the issue”.
“Yes, there are definitely military exercises…Beijing’s responses to Pelosi’s visit have centered on the military aspect. But Taiwanese in Taiwan are also living their day-to-day lives,” he said. she declared.
Ms Yen said Ms Pelosi’s visit was a “non-story”.
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (left) met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Source: AAP / PA
“Just before she [Ms Pelosi] arrival, there was all this hype about whether she was coming…I know the media was looking to make a story… [the media] always follows the sensation. But I think it’s quite normal for two democratic countries, for their leaders… to exchange ideas. Mrs. Yen said.
“As for how does this make the Taiwanese community feel? I don’t think that’s news.”
What happens next?
Ms Hsu said China’s recent military exercises, together with incursions by its military aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the past year, have “really changed the status quo” and “Beijing is constantly changing lines”.
“China sees Taiwan as a domestic issue… the show of force, military exercises and missiles must send a very strong signal to the United States that it is infringing on domestic issues,” she said.
“You can draw parallels with the 1996 missile crisis, but I think at the same time … the later activities that Beijing did in the missile area, exercises – it really changed the status quo.
“So you’re seeing a lot more entries into Taiwan’s ADIZ, which changes the line a bit, right, so that makes it a new norm where Beijing with its military overflights, with every subsequent overflight through Taiwan’s ADIZ, does this change the status quo? I would say yes.
And on Australia’s foreign policy approach, Ms Hsu said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his government had shown greater restraint in handling the country’s relationship with China.
“The Albanian government has maintained a fairly disciplined stance on not changing the status quo [of China and Taiwan]. In terms of Australia’s engagement with Taiwan, it continues to recognize the one China policy, there is no movement on that,” she said.
For Mr. Tuon, the message was simple.
“We urge the Chinese government to put an end to this kind of warmongering mentality and just focus on regional peace and stability,” he said.