The tank traps on the beaches of Jinmen Island are a clear reminder that Taiwan is living under the constant threat of a Chinese invasion – and fears of an uncovered conflict is at its highest level in decades.
Democratic Taiwan has learned to live with the warnings of Beijing’s dictatorial leaders that it is willing and ready to occupy a place it considers part of its territory.
But that static foundation has reached a level that is hard to ignore in recent times as Chinese jets are now entering Taiwan’s defense at unprecedented speed and the Liberation Army. The Chinese launched propaganda simulating an invasion of the island ̵1; and even an attack on US bases in Guam.
Not since the mid-1990s, when China fired missiles at the Taiwan Strait during times of heightened tension, the sound of the sword was so loud.
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Sitting under a booth at Quemoy National University on Kinmen, a Taiwan-ruled island just off mainland China, freshman Wang Jui-sheng said he was feeling a little insecure.
“China is angry with Taiwan and acts even more brutal,” he told AFP.
“I worry about the possibility of a military conflict between the two sides, maybe even in the near future.”
Kinmen (population 140,000) was located only 3.2 km from the mainland and was left at the hands of the KMT forces at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, which formed present-day China and Taiwan.
If Beijing’s army passed through the Taiwan Strait, they would almost certainly have to capture Kinmen first.
And if war broke out, it could easily tighten America – put the two armed armies against each other.
Ian Easton, author of a book on what the war might look like, says the world is ignoring the growing tensions in the Taiwan Strait when it is in peril.
The senior director at Project 2049, an organization that specializes in China-Taiwan issues, told AFP: “This is the most dangerous, most unstable and the most damaging point on the planet. .
Historically, Beijing has used carrots and sticks to search for what it sees as unifying China, combining honey promises of shared prosperity with warnings of destruction for 23. million people of Taiwan.
But in recent years, carrots have disappeared.
Four years ago, Taiwan voted for President Tsai Ing-wen, who saw the island as a sovereign state and not part of “one China”.
China cuts off official contacts and exerts economic, military and diplomatic pressure, with the aim of pushing voters to bring a more Beijing-friendly politician to office in the near future.
It doesn’t work. Tsai won a second term in January and polls show more and more voters consider themselves Taiwanese, not Chinese.
The inability to win the hearts of the Taiwanese – exacerbated by Beijing’s crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang – may explain why President Xi Jinping has taken the toughest stance. to Taiwan since Mao Zedong.
Xi, who removed the presidential term limit two years ago, made no secret of his goals.
He described the takeover of Taiwan as an “indispensable requirement for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese” – a project he aims to complete by 2049, celebrating the centennial anniversary of China. Communist country.
During a trip earlier this month to a PLA base, he told the army “prepare for war”.
Captain James Fanell, former chief naval intelligence officer of the US Pacific fleet, believes that China will advance to Taiwan in some form in the next 10 years.
He told AFP from the Geneva Security Policy Center that he joined after retiring in 2015: “The reality is that China has always had a plan and they are on a timeline.
“We are in interest decade right now.”
Over the course of his career, Fanell has watched China transform from a limited brown water force on its coastline into a globally capable navy armed with much better and more hypersonic missiles. ship than America.
“For every ship we build, they make five times as much,” Fanell said.
He added that what makes Beijing’s designs for Taiwan so dangerous today, compared to past tense times, is that China can now have enough military power to take over the island. – though any invasion would have cost a lot.
Whether or not the US will support Taiwan in the event of an attack is unclear. Unlike Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, Taiwan was not a treaty ally.
But Washington was bound by Congress to sell weapons to Taiwan for self-defense and said it opposed any drastic change in the island’s status quo.
The policy – known as “strategic ambiguity” – is designed to prevent an invasion without directly confronting China.
But there has been a growing number of bipartisan discussions in the United States about whether there is a need to turn to strategic clarity now before China’s more assertive approach.
“If Taiwan is conquered and occupied by the PRC (China), the US alliance system in Asia will be devastated,” Mr. Easton said.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has certainly backed Taiwan as it clashed with Beijing on a wide range of issues.
Trump is far more willing than his recent predecessors to sell key weapon systems to Taiwan’s gunless forces.
Over the past three years, the United States has agreed to deals worth at least $ 15 billion, including new-generation F16 fighters and movable rockets.
Whether Trump challenger, Joe Biden, takes a similar stance towards Taiwan if he wins next week’s election is not clear.
As great powers jostled, the people living on Kinmen desperately hoped such weapons would never be needed.
Tsai Yan-mei, a mainland Chinese who is married to a Taiwanese man and lives in Kinmen, said: “I don’t want to see a war break out because both sides suffer.
“I hope to live a stable life,” she added. “I enjoy democracy and freedom in Taiwan.”
aw-jta / je / th