[Taiwan used to be friendly to South Africa under Apartheid. When I was in the SA Navy, some Taiwanese ships came to Cape Town and myself and other guys in our unit went on board their ships. The Taiwanese were useful as anti-communist allies. The fact that China, can't easily recapture a small island with other Chinese, that is near their country does give you some insight that they are not that potent. I see below the belief that within ten years they can pull this off, but I'm not so sure. It also gives you some idea of what awaits the world. I am delighted that Globalism is coming to an end. I look forward to the breakdown of worldwide liberalism. It can lead us back into war and CONQUEST again … in certain places under certain conditions. It shows you that the world of multiculturalism and various races ENDED UP BEING … NATIONALISTS!!!! I think there is much hope for whites. We're still a major force. Jan]
Yuke Chen is worried about having children — but not for the same reasons as most people in their twenties.
The 24-year-old Taiwanese woman says she fears China will one day move to take back her island home by force, turning it into "the next Hong Kong".
Today, Taiwan is celebrating Double Ten Day, a day the self-governing island views as its National Day, however, China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has never relinquished the right to use its military to seize control.
Earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that Taiwan "must and will be" reunited with China, and urged the island’s people to accept that fate.
Ms Chen, who supports Taiwanese independence, worries the island could become "the next Hong Kong".
"Whether they shoot a missile or unify Taiwan by military force, I am largely concerned about it for the next generation," Ms Chen said.
"There are so many things out of our control."
Beijing has stepped up its military activities near the island recently — nearly 40 Chinese fighter jets have crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait in the past month, entering Taiwan’s south-western air defence identification zone.
Xi Jinping, in olive, brown and green army fatigues, speaks on a ship after reviewing the naval forces.
Mr Xi has warned Taiwan "must and will be" reunited with China.(Xinhua Via AP)
The moves were a response to increasing diplomatic activities between Taiwan and the United States, which has a long-standing security partnership with the island.
So what is the risk of China actually launching an invasion of Taiwan, would it lead to a bigger war, and who would be involved in any potential conflict?
Could China invade Taiwan?
Simply put, yes — but that certainly has not always been the case.
"For most of China’s history, they didn’t even have the capacity to do it; to be able to mobilise and move forces across the Taiwan Strait, and have them land on the island of Taiwan," Oriana Skylar Mastro, a Centre Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, told the ABC.
"They didn’t have ships with defence systems on them, their pilots couldn’t fly over water, for example."
Now China does have that capacity, as shown through its recent intimidating behaviour in the Taiwan Strait. While China used to fire missiles into the strait to signal its anger with Taiwan, now it can fly jets into their airspace.
But for Dr Mastro, who is an expert on China’s military, it’s better to ask whether any potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be successful.
The prospect of the United States intervening in support of Taiwan also needs to be factored in.
"If it was just Taiwan, [China] would win hands-down — if the United States gets involved, then it really depends on the scenario," she said.
"But it is much more of a draw than it used to be … it’s no longer the case like in the 1990s that the presence of a US aircraft carrier [in the Taiwan Strait] is enough to deter China. Now they remind the United States that they can sink those if they wanted to."
So how long until China could win?
Assuming the United States does not drastically change its military posture or strategy, Dr Mastro said she expected China could invade Taiwan "successfully with high confidence by 2028".
However, she said Chinese military officers she has spoken with believe the country will be ready much sooner — as early as the next year or two.
This could help answer why China is becoming increasingly aggressive in the Taiwan Strait, and more willing to use military coercion against Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence said its air force had been forced to scramble jets 4,132 times since January 2020, a 129 per cent increase compared to all of last year, according to a parliamentary report seen by Reuters this week.
In a statement to Taiwan’s Parliament, the island’s Defence Minister this week accused China of 1,710 air sorties and 1,029 maritime incursions in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone this year alone.
"They’re no longer afraid of what happens if things escalate," Dr Mastro said.
"So at the very least even if you don’t see conflict, you’re going to see increasing military pressure on Taiwan and obviously that’s not good."
What would happen if there was a conflict?
The United States is Taiwan’s main security partner, despite not having official diplomatic ties with the island.
Obviously, win or lose, a conflict over Taiwan would have long-term ramifications for the region.
A Chinese victory would severely weaken the United States’ position and role in the region, Dr Mastro said, however, a Chinese defeat could also be very destabilising and act as a precursor to further conflict.
"What seems more likely to me is that the United States, after fighting in a war and paying the costs of war, would demand Taiwan independence, or demand also that China concedes on some other positions before the war would end," she said.
"And in that case, I’m concerned that we enter a Versailles Treaty type of situation, in which you create a China that instead of learning the lesson that aggression is bad, learns the lesson not to lose the next time around."
The only country likely to get involved if China were to invade Taiwan is the United States, according to Dr Mastro — there isn’t really any expectation that other countries would get drawn in at this stage.
Despite being Taiwan’s main security partner, the United States is not actually obligated to defend the island from China.
Taiwan US relationship angers China, threatens war
Only the United States is likely to get directly involved an any potential conflict over Taiwan.
The US could, however, find itself with fewer friends in the region if it appeared to leave Taiwan high and dry in the face of an unprovoked attack.
"The US is not a resident power in Asia — the United States relies on other countries for its access and its influence," Dr Mastro said, referring to the numerous US military bases that nations across Asia are hosting.
"If other countries are not aligned with the United States, then that in my mind signals the end of US leadership in Asia."
What do people in Taiwan think?
Ms Chen’s family runs restaurants and lodges in her hometown in Nantou county, which is located in the heart of the island and is popular with tourists.
Like many other families in Nantou, pro-independence young people like Ms Chen tend to have a bit of political discord with their more conservative parents, whose jobs and businesses largely rely on Chinese tourists.
Ms Chen’s mother, who asked to be identified as Ms Tsai, told the ABC she supported Taiwan’s Nationalist Party (KMT), which advocates for peaceful unification with China and is less in favour of provoking Beijing, during Presidential elections at the start of this year.
Ms Chen on the other hand voted for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which generally supports Taiwan independence and which won the election by a landslide.
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But despite disagreeing on how close Taiwan should be to China, she said their whole family was "terrified that a war could be coming".
At the same time, economic and cultural ties between the island and the mainland are also making Beijing-Taiwan relations more complicated than they used to be.
The Chen family had to close their restaurants last year, after Beijing banned Chinese citizens from travelling to Taiwan by themselves, depriving Nantou of millions of tourists.
Why is China so nervous about democracy in Taiwan?
"Nearly 80 per cent of our guests were tourists from China," Ms Chen said, describing the closures as "a tragic loss" for the family.
Short of an outright invasion of Taiwan — or sending warplanes into the island’s airspace — this sort of economic coercion is another way in which China is seeking to bring Taiwan in line.
It’s a tactic Australia is familiar with, along with several other countries that have raised Beijing’s ire.
"China’s been doing this with Taiwan since the beginning, it’s only in recent years that countries like Australia for example have experienced these types of tactics as well," Dr Mastro said.
"We should think about the issue much more broadly than Taiwan, think about it as ‘how do we discourage China from relying so heavily on coercion as a tool of exercising its power?’
"This is bad for Taiwan, but it’s also bad everyone else in the region as well."