For Taiwanese, the specter of a Chinese invasion is a part of life

People from Taiwan prefer to joke that you would be able to all the time inform that somebody is Taiwanese if their response to a loud bang is to ask: “Is the Chinese army attacking us?”

It is a joke that we Taiwanese make to poke enjoyable at ourselves once we are with our overseas pals, Chinese or in any other case, however there’s additionally fact to it.

In Taiwan, youngsters ask this query each time there’s a loud sound exterior or when Chinese army planes fly close by as they typically do. It is a knee-jerk response given the fixed speak of a possible invasion within the media, by politicians and among the many normal inhabitants.

The risk of an invasion by China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province whereas self-ruled Taiwan considers itself to be unbiased, is a part of every day life in Taiwan.

For greater than 70 years, folks have “waited” for a conflict that’s but to return.

In 1949, China and Taiwan successfully got here below the rule of two completely different events after the Kuomintang (KMT) that had been ruling each fled to the island. The Communist Party took over the mainland, evolving to grow to be right now’s authorities of China. Every Chinese chief since then has claimed to have a proper army plan to get better Taiwan.

But Taiwanese don’t look as if they’re living with the specter of battle – vigilant, panicked and even able to flee. Quite the alternative. Over the a long time, the Taiwanese have developed a singular coping philosophy. We undergo our days with the kind of perspective that may greatest be described as informal.

Boba or bubble tea, the quintessential Taiwanese drink, well-liked amongst all ages and throughout all social lessons, displays this perspective.

In the afternoon, folks typically take a quick break to order a takeaway cup of boba tea from the specialist outlets that promote it. It is a every day reward or deal with. People bond over sipping, slurping and chewing the tapioca ball-filled milky beverage that is available in quite a lot of flavours and with a personalized amount of sugar syrup and ice. Boba tea represents this informal perspective as a result of it doesn’t matter what, we all the time discover time to get pleasure from it – to get pleasure from life. Just as we address the hustle and bustle of on a regular basis life, we cope with the psychological pressure of army tensions and the uncertainty they symbolize with a giant cup of tea.

Of course, our informal perspective may give many foreigners the improper impression – that we aren’t apprehensive a couple of conflict. This is just not the case.

Indeed, when political tensions are excessive and the opportunity of an invasion grows, folks in Taiwan could also be outwardly informal, whereas considering, because the Taiwanese expression goes, “the wolf is coming”. But when tensions simmer down they may assume: “The wolf is sleeping. Maybe there will be no war.”

In current months, army and political tensions have risen between China and Taiwan with incursions by Chinese warplanes within the island’s air defence zone – greater than 150 in early October – and the US saying it could defend Taiwan within the occasion of an invasion. Some consultants have stated tensions are at their worst because the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis when China fired missiles into Taiwanese waters in 1996.

This has made everybody really feel nervous, though to various levels. The temper within the nation has been tense, whereas debates within the media have mentioned extending army service from the present few months to years. Ordinary folks speak concerning the state of affairs with their households and pals. I’ve pals who’ve nightmares a couple of Chinese invasion. I believe such nightmares are frequent.

Even so, most individuals inform themselves that whether or not an assault comes or not, life should go on. “What else can we do?” folks ask. It is a phrase generally heard when Taiwanese speak about an invasion as they typically do over dinner, espresso or at a bar.

In current years, a Japanese phrase, shōkakkō, which means “small but certain happiness/fortune” – a time period coined by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami to indicate life’s easy pleasures – has grow to be a well-liked approach for older folks to explain younger Taiwanese.

Sometimes, it means younger folks care solely concerning the style of boba tea, for lovely, delicately crafted Japanese backpacks or postcards, or spending time discussing whether or not taro must be added to sizzling pots. Older adults, lots of whom are petrified of China whereas some advocate a “surrender”, see this as an escapist and unambitious approach to life.

My observations are fairly the alternative. I admit that my friends born within the 1980s and 1990s and I are typically very lazy and comfy with the established order, as are many younger folks in developed international locations all over the world. But it appears to me that that is an incredible and distinctive mode of self-adjustment: it permits folks to face the threats and uncertainties by selecting to reside within the second.

Most individuals are making an attempt to know a “small but certain happiness/fortune” whereas figuring out that on this life they might encounter the outbreak of a confrontation within the Taiwan Strait, a 180km vast physique of water separating the island of Taiwan from continental Asia, and most of them could not be capable to escape.

This give attention to living within the second has prevented Tawain from falling into excessive nationalism – avoiding, for instance, overly harsh immigration insurance policies for the Taiwanese with spouses from China or xenophobic insurance policies floated by right-wing politicians to forestall Chinese who reside in Taiwan from accessing healthcare.

Earlier this yr, I produced a story the place I interviewed 33 Taiwanese of various ages, genders, social lessons and ethnic teams about conflict and nationwide id. Among the questions had been: “Do you think war will break out? And what would you do if that unfortunate day arrived?”

Everyone who answered felt that conflict was a risk and that they had been ready for it. The majority stated that, in such an occasion, they might not really feel competent sufficient to volunteer to serve on the entrance line alongside Taiwan’s standing military, however that they might assist with logistics or transportation.

Some folks informed me they might select to flee, maybe to the US or Japan the place many Taiwanese have relations.

Then there was a senior govt in a multinational firm who stated he would first ship his spouse and youngsters away from Taiwan and keep to battle till the top. If he died, he stated he would need his youngsters to cross on the historical past of Taiwan.

Among the interviewees, the one who struck me most was a superb good friend who I’ve recognized for a few years. She belongs to the Paiwan Indigenous group. She informed me that she didn’t have the braveness to go to the entrance line, however that she wouldn’t run away: “It’s all because of my cat. My cat can’t go anywhere. I’m supposed to stay home and hold my cat until the end, no matter what the end is.” Her cat is previous and sick. It moved me {that a} pet might affect such selections.

One interviewee of round 20 years of age stated that if the conflict began, he would wish to work out find out how to make extra scrumptious and handy meals for the troopers. He thought that it could be unhappy to eat dangerous rice earlier than dying. This reply may be very attribute of Taiwan: even in moments of life and demise, one thinks about meals.

These responses are the legacy of living by the peace of a conflict that’s indefinitely delayed – we’re extremely tense however unexpectedly relaxed.

Most of us don’t appear like “warriors against totalitarianism”, as many Taiwanese view China. But everybody has a tough plan of what they might do if Taiwan is invaded.

I hope that Taiwan does extra to discover its relationship with China somewhat than rejecting it outright. But if there’s a conflict, I’ll attempt to volunteer on the entrance line.

The considered a battle and what it might imply for Taiwan is heartbreaking. I fear about my male cousins who can be referred to as as much as battle, what would occur to our temples dedicated to the ocean goddess Mazu and the buildings in Taipei’s centre, the place I reside, that are a part of the town’s light nature. But these worries are additionally what it means to be Taiwanese and to reside within the shadow of a potential conflict.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.