The San Jiao Fort cafe on Kinmen Island may well be the best place in Taiwan to watch for the threat of invasion by China. Boasting a direct view of the Chinese city of Xiamen just six miles away, it is built atop an old military bunker, festooned with camouflage netting, and serves hot and cold beverages.
With Chinese warships now lingering off Taiwan’s coast and missiles falling into its seas, the divided loyalties of the cafe’s two proprietors say much about a generational shift in Taiwan that has transformed the island democracy’s relationship with China.
If China tried to take Taiwan by force, Chiang Chung-chieh, 32, would fight, even if the chances of winning are slim. Ting I-hsiu, 52, said he “would surrender.”
With a culture forged by eras of Indigenous people, hundreds of years of Chinese immigration, Japanese colonial occupation and a harsh period of martial law, Taiwan is not monolithic. During its three decades as a democracy, conflicting allegiances have dominated its politics, with debates over whether to accommodate or oppose China’s claims to the island breaking down along the lines of age, identity and geography.
In recent years, under growing bellicosity from China, the middle ground has shifted. Now, more and more, Taiwanese identify themselves as separate from China. For them, China represents an existential threat to a pluralistic and democratic way of life. They don’t consider Taiwan part of a long-divided family, as Mr. Ting and many older, China-friendly people describe the relationship. [Continue reading…]