A note from Taiwan: Living 20 kilometres from Xi Jinping’s favourite military base

2 weeks ago 9

A enactment from Taiwan: Living 20 kilometres from Xi Jinping’s favourite subject base

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The archetypal airy is trickling done the fog connected Beigan, 1 of the Matsu Islands successful the Taiwan Strait, 270 kilometres from Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, but conscionable 20 kilometres from China.


Credit:Eryk Bagshaw

Between the rows of century-old chromatic houses that dot the colony of Qinbi, locals are preparing food noodles for breakfast, fishermen are casting their nets, and I’m filing a communicative from a stoop successful a laneway overlooking the ocean, having spent the past week hopping astir the Taiwan Strait.

It’s hard to ideate specified a serene spot could beryllium the archetypal constituent of onslaught successful the adjacent large powerfulness conflict, but reminders dot the landscape. Beneath the fisherman’s houses are bunkers; crossed the bay, signs archer residents to beryllium “prepared to fight”.

The Matsu Islands were taken implicit by the aboriginal Taiwanese government, the Kuomintang, astatine the opening of the 20th century, aft the extremity of the imperial Qing dynasty. It took different 38 years for the Chinese Communist Party’s rivals to govern Taiwan, but they person ruled the islands closest to China since 1911.

A billboard connected  Taiwan’s Mazu Island carries a connection   reminding radical   to beryllium  acceptable   to fight.

A billboard connected Taiwan’s Mazu Island carries a connection reminding radical to beryllium acceptable to fight.Credit:Daniel Ceng

To get present from Taipei you person to archetypal navigate Taiwan’s occasionally volatile upwind and onshore connected a azygous portion runway. When we arrived, the airdrome had been closed for six hours. The ferry thrust to Qinbi took astir 20 minutes but felt similar an hr acknowledgment to the unsmooth South China Sea.

Thankfully, lensman Daniel Ceng had brought question sickness tablets backmost with him from a caller duty successful Ukraine, which got america done the ride, but it was a reminder of the challenging conditions immoderate invading Chinese unit mightiness look if it attempts an penetration of Taiwan.

Qinbi sits other Fujian, a cardinal aerial unit and subject basal for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and pridefulness of Xi Jinping, who archetypal came to nationalist attraction present arsenic politician of the province. China’s largest air-force bearer has been named the Fujian. It’s hard to miss the symbolism for the aboriginal of Taiwan-China relations. To ram location the point, Xi has repeatedly warned that helium reserves the close to instrumentality Taiwan by unit if indispensable to implicit the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”. Few Matsu locals are buying what Xi is selling.


In opposition to the authoritarian authorities 20 kilometres away, the locals present are portion of a arrogant antiauthoritarian tradition. It’s midterm predetermination play and a pilgrimage is underway. The Taiwanese person to instrumentality to their location villages to formed their votes. There are nary absentee votes and millions instrumentality to their hometowns to formed their ballots for mayor, colony chiefs and region leaders. Voting is not compulsory, but turnout rates are arsenic precocious arsenic 75 per cent. The state lone became a afloat ideology successful 1996.

“The ideology advancement successful Taiwan is simply a diamond and the full satellite should support it,” says Chen Kuang-fu, the Democratic People’s Party campaigner connected different land concatenation successful the Taiwan Strait, Penghu.

On Penghu, onshore of cacti, fisher radical and winding Mediterranean-style villages, astir residents are sick of worrying.

“If China attacks, it attacks,” says 30-year-old store proprietor Jack Song. “I volition decidedly combat back.”

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