On the coast opposite Taiwan, Chinese dream of reunification | TV5MONDE

On the coast opposite Taiwan, Chinese dream of reunification | TV5MONDE
On the coast opposite Taiwan, Chinese dream of reunification | TV5MONDE

“The island will return to us one day!”: on the Chinese east coast opposite Taiwan, tourists scan the waters of the strait on Friday, where military exercises are taking place, dreaming of “peaceful reunification” with the territory.

In his inauguration speech on Monday, new Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te promised to preserve the island’s democratic system and appeared to want to deepen the separation with mainland China.

In response, Beijing launched major military maneuvers to encircle the territory and accused Mr. Lai of pushing Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty, towards “war”.

On the tourist island of Pingtan, the closest point in mainland China to Taiwan, visitors see the separation between the two sides, which dates from the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, as temporary.

“We share common roots” with the inhabitants of Taiwan, the vast majority of whom are of Chinese culture, underlines Chen Yan, a 60-year-old woman from the large city of Wuhan (center). “There will inevitably be a reunification” one day, according to her.

“Whether it is the government of mainland China or that of Taiwan, our common hope is to achieve peaceful reunification,” she emphasizes.

“We cannot, however, exclude that, faced with certain situations”, the Chinese authorities “may be obliged to achieve this by other means”, implying military means, believes Ms Chen.

“Provocation”

Nearby, tourists pose in front of a stone monument indicating that the place is “the shortest distance between the motherland and the island of Taiwan”, or 68 nautical miles (about 126 kilometers).

Standing near a long panoramic view, a 29-year-old tourist, Mr. Xu, judges that Lai Ching-te is not legitimate to rule the island.

“At best, the +president of Taiwan+ is the temporary leader of the region,” he believes.

Taiwan is “of course” a “part of China”, he adds, insisting that Mr Lai therefore “cannot be called president”.

Bugle sounds emanate from a nearby hillside, home to a Chinese military compound.

Slogans written on its walls call for “following the orders of the Communist Party” and “being able to win battles”.

Another motto takes up a famous quote by Chinese President Xi Jinping in reference to Taiwan: “The motherland must be reunified and will inevitably be reunified.”

The Chinese media machine has been running at full speed since the start of military exercises on Thursday and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense promised “countermeasures” on Friday against any “provocation” from supporters of Taiwan’s independence.

Huge slogan

But 200 km southwest of Pingtan, in the large Chinese city of Xiamen, only a few kilometers from the Taiwanese island of Kinmen, there is no apparent sign of military activity.

In the rain, tourists crowd the beach with their umbrellas. They pose for photos in front of the seascape or bargain for jewelry with vendors.

“I saw the news about the military exercises this morning when I woke up,” said Ms. Xu, 43, from southwest China’s Sichuan province.

“But I’m not too interested in this type of national news,” she explains, busy taking a photo of a lighthouse facing Kinmen.

Near the beach, a huge message made up of eight red Chinese characters several meters high proclaims: “One country, two systems, let’s reunify China.”

A reference to the promise, made by Beijing to Taipei, of preserving the island’s democratic political system in the event of reunification.

Because in Pingtan, a 24-year-old tourist, Mr. Jiang, is convinced: the day of reunification is approaching.

“The independence of Taiwan is not desirable. The island will return to us one day and that day is near!”, he told AFP.

“We need to show (the Taiwanese authorities) that we are strong. We are not afraid of them, but rather we want to use peaceful means to return Taiwan to China.”

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