Taiwan and China have been at loggerheads since the island broke away from the mainland when the civil war ended 70 years ago but there’s a new militancy in China’s rhetoric towards what it sees as its renegade province.
In June this year, a senior Chinese General publicly issued this warning: “If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, our military has no choice but to fight at all costs – for national unity.”
In Death Metal Diplomacy, correspondent Bill Birtles profiles a people and a country under increasing pressure as China’s power and ambitions in the region grow.
He meets rock star and politician Freddy Lim, Taiwan’s answer to Peter Garrett. The charismatic Lim is famous amongst young people as the front man for cult death metal band Chthonic but now he’s pushing his message of Taiwanese independence to a broader audience.
Banned from playing in Hong Kong and on the mainland, Lim’s stage is his political platform. “Only if Taiwanese are united can we overcome all difficulties!” Lim screams to thousands of fans at a recent concert.
But the reality of living in the shadow of its’ old enemy means Taiwan still operates as if on a war footing.
We capture emergency air raid drills, which see busy streets empty within minutes. And we’re on Taiwan’s beaches for the country’s annual war games. It’s a full dress rehearsal for catastrophe, fighting off an invasion by China’s People’s Liberation Army. And we explore China’s hearts and minds campaign, which, Taiwan says, deploys the weapons of disinformation, fake news and mainland cash to shape national debate.
And we visit the Taiwanese islands of Kinmen, its last outpost against the mainland, where only a five kilometre strait separates it from China. Kinmen tea shop owner Wang Ling welcomes the hordes of Chinese tourists who visit but feels nervous as tensions rise between the two neighbours. “If China really invaded Kinmen, I would probably move away,” she says.
Echoing the voices of Hong Kong’s young protestors, Freddy Lim sums up the mood: “We have no choice. We can’t give up because Taiwan is our home. We have nowhere to escape. We just have to try to protect our way of life.”
Death Metal Diplomacy airs on ABC TV at 8 pm AEST Tuesday 13th August & Friday 16th August 1.30pm. Also on ABC News Channel on Wed Aug 14th 530am, Saturday 15th at 9.30pm & Sun 16th at 5.30pm & iview.
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