The Chinese holiday region of Xiamen is only a few kilometers away from Taiwan. But on the beach in Xiamen there is no sign of a possible risk of war: on the palm-lined promenade in the Chinese holiday region, the residents appear carefree.
Newlyweds pose for photos, owners walk their dogs, children play in the sand. “A war? No, I’m not interested in that,” says the young IT specialist Hwang as he walks along the beach.
The Chinese coastal city of Xiamen is just a few kilometers from the Penghu Islands, a Taiwan-governed archipelago just offshore of Taiwan. If the military conflict between mainland China and the island state escalated, Xiamen beach could be one of the starting points.
Despite Chinese warnings, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan on Tuesday and Wednesday, triggering a diplomatic crisis. China then began large-scale military maneuvers near the Taiwanese coast on Thursday.
Hwang doesn’t seem to care. He comes from the Fujian province in southeast China, where Xiamen is located. The residents are “used to tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” he says.
“We’ve been living with it for decades,” he adds, referring to the conflict between China and Taiwan that has been smoldering since 1949. While the government in Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway part of its territory, the Taiwanese ruling party, led by President Tsai Ing-wen, sees it as such Island as a sovereign nation and as independent from China.
“Anything could happen at any time,” says Hwang. But that is not very likely, even if the Pelosi visit “upset the balance”. “So let’s not worry.”
Zheng Dahai sees it differently. “I think and hope there won’t be a war,” says the 30-year-old father, who is setting up a beach tent in the sand with his son. “A conflict would affect us, our lives,” he says. He also thinks injuries are possible.
In the background, Kinmen rises out of the sea, an island with around 100,000 inhabitants. Throughout history, the Chinese communist rulers have never been able to conquer it. Thus, it remained under Taiwanese control.
“We don’t want war, we want to live in peace and mutual respect,” says an elderly man. He comes to Xiamen Beach every day to swim. “On the other hand,” he points out, “if you don’t respect me, if you even press me, that’s a whole different story.” Whether the opponent is stronger or not – he would then fight, he says – regardless of his age.
A little further away, tourists take a selfie. A meter-high monument can be seen in the background, which illustrates Xiamen’s special location. It consists of eight Chinese figures shouting a patriotic slogan towards Taiwan. “One country, two systems: unite China,” reads the banner. It alludes to the political compromise that brought Hong Kong and Macau back under Chinese rule in the 1990s.