Last week one of my former students from Luoyang wrote to me expressing concern for my safety. What was the nature of her concern you ask? Bird flu outbreak? Contaminated water? Rising pork prices? None of these. No, the source of her worry was that pesky bit of turf across the Taiwan Strait, and their outgoing president’s push for a referendum on whether or not the island should seek UN membership under the name Taiwan rather than its formal name of the Republic of China.
I’ll leave CNN to fill you in on the background and details, not to mention Beijing’s predictable threat to make Taiwan “pay a dear price” for any move perceived as pro-independence.
Gripping stuff, indeed. And of course the Party elite whip up the rhetoric and the feelings of the people at such times like turning on a tap. The result is to put the population on heightened alert for imminent war, with many expressing a desire for a missile launch to teach their disobedient neighbours a lesson.
My former student’s worry was that Taiwanese hooligans were about to storm the beach at Xiamen, break a few deck chairs, and demand ice cream at discounted prices. I reassured her that the Chinese government was ‘all talk’ on the possibility of invading Taiwan in the run-up to the Olympics.
If China were to scratch their military itch between now and August, the opening ceremony in Beijing will look like this: Burma, China, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and possibly Venezuela. After the Games I suspect Beijing’s urge to flex their military muscle might prove irresistible. If it comes to that I’m sure all foreigners will be rounded up and secured in five-star accommodation. So, nothing to worry about.