From where we are, we watch with disquietude the Chinese military live-fire drills around Taiwan are continuing Monday, a day after Beijing was set Sunday to wrap up its largest-ever military exercises in the area.
China has been beside itself at the trip—an overnight stop in Taipei during the official four-nation tour of the 82-year-old US Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the third in line on presidential succession in the US of A.
China has also deployed fighter jets, warships, and ballistic missiles in what analysts have described as practice for a blockade and ultimate invasion of the self-ruled island which China claims as its territory.
We saw the usual hustle and bustle of a Taipei weekend missing, as mega war games staged by the mainland’s People’s Liberation Army to encircle Taiwan during four days stopped flights and put the sea lanes in a tizzy.
At home, it was not fear of Beijing’s unprecedented saber-rattling, in reaction to Pelosi’s visit, that sent Taipei residents hurrying home.
They disappeared off the streets to escape a heatwave that saw temperatures soar to 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) last weekend.
One 22-year-old health worker was quoted as saying, commenting on the live-dire drills, “Why should I be afraid? The Chinese Communists have [always] been doing that when they are not happy. They think it will scare us, but we are already used to it.”
Elsewhere in Quemoy, a Taiwan-controlled islet also known as Kinmen just 3.2 km from the mainland city of Xiamen, residents were also unfazed despite repeated flyovers three nights in a row by PLA drones aiming to intimidate.
Beijing had repeatedly warned against such a trip by Pelosi—the third in line to the US presidency—and had reacted strongly against the “provocation.”
The US does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state and acknowledges the one-China principle, but it opposes any attempt to take by force the island, where 23 million people live.
What causes great concern here is that in Taiwan, there are some 160,000 Filipino migrant workers. Should the tension escalate—we have no idea when the Chinese military exercises will end—we are sure Manila has a ready diagram for immediate evacuation.
A Chinese invasion of Taipei at this point would not be a picnic for the People’s Liberation Army, since Taiwan is widely deemed to have US firepower behind it
At the same time, if Xi Jinping goes to war now, with his upcoming appointment to a third term just a couple or so months away, such confrontation could be costly.
We need not take sides.
As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. repeatedly vowed as he laid down the foreign policy of his government, setting the country’s independent foreign policy as “a friend to everyone and an enemy to no one.”
The president indicated he would seek to strike a balance between China and the United States, which are vying to have the closest ties with his administration.
“We are a small player among very large giants in geopolitics. We have to ply our own way,” the 64-year-old President had said, adding “I do not subscribe to the old thinking of the Cold War where we had these spheres of influence where you’re under the Soviet Union or you’re under the United States.”