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ABC News
ABC News
By Joyce Cheng and Bang Xiao

Taiwanese people take Beijing's fury over Nancy Pelosi's visit in their stride

Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.  (Source: Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Despite the worldwide attention on US politician Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan — and Beijing's furious reaction — the actual residents of the island do not seem very bothered.

Taiwanese citizen Mia Liu said the latest episode in the long-running saga between the US and China — with Taiwan stuck in the middle — was the last thing she and her friends wanted to talk about. 

"I am quite surprised that it can attract so much attention in the US and other countries," Ms Liu told the ABC.

"Taiwanese people will actually skip it over quietly."

Mia Liu says Nancy Pelosi's visit has not been a big topic of discussion in her friendship group.  (Supplied)

Ms Pelosi — the Speaker of the US House of Representatives — arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night, the highest-level visit by a US official in 25 years.

Chinese jets buzzed around Taiwan's territory and Beijing — which had warned the US not to "play with fire" over Taiwan — announced joint air and sea drills and test launches of conventional missiles in the sea east of the island.

Ms Liu, 36-year-old financial consultant, said China's attempts at intimidation were just a normal part of life on the self-ruled island.

She said she was not expecting war to break out anytime soon. 

"It is necessary to be alert, but pointless to be extremely worried," she said.

"I don't think we should overreact to it."

Despite Beijing's warning of "serious consequences" over the visit, Nancy Pelosi received a warm welcome in Taipei.  (AP: Chiang Ying-ying )

'No politics on the dinner table'

Ms Liu said she remembered when she was nine years old Beijing deployed 150,000 troops to the province of Fujian, across the strait from Taiwan, and conducted a series of missiles tests and live-fire and amphibious assault exercises over eight months.

The episode, dubbed The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, was triggered by Taiwan's first democratically elected president visiting the US.

"We were all so very afraid of mainland China invading," Ms Liu said, adding that some of her childhood friends migrated overseas during the crisis.

"But after all these years it just feels like, 'OK, you're threatening us again, so when are you going to fight?'" she said. 

Lien Mien believes most Taiwanese would like to retain the state quo.   (Supplied)

Lien Mien, a 34-year-old data analyst from Taipei, said Ms Pelosi's visit was "a great diplomatic boost and encouragement" for Taiwan, but there was little appetite to change the island's political status. 

Last year, a poll by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council found 84.9 per cent of Taiwanese people supported maintaining the "status quo".

Only 6.8 per cent said Taiwan should declare independence as soon as possible, while 1.6 per cent said they supported unification with China.

"I believe the majority of our people wouldn't favour changing this seemingly balanced status quo," Ms Lien told ABC.

"Taiwan is a country that has no politics on the dinner table.

"It's really hard for me to know whether most Taiwanese really care about this or not."

'The boy who cried wolf'

Xi Jinping recently warned US President Joe Biden not to "play with fire" over Taiwan. (Reuters: Tingshu Wang)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly pledged to build up China's armed forces to safeguard its sovereignty and complete "reunification" with Taiwan.

"Solving the Taiwan issue and realising the complete reunification of the motherland are the unswerving historical tasks of the Chinese Communist Party," Mr Xi said during the ruling Communist Party's centenary of its founding last year.

China regularly seeks to assert its sovereignty by flying fighter jets and bombers though the island's air defence identification zone and conducting other military exercise in Taiwan's vicinity.

Beijing demonstrated its anger over Nancy Pelosi's visit with a burst of military activity in surrounding waters. (Reuters: Tingshu Wang)

"It is a repetitive story of the boy who cried wolf, that's why many Taiwanese people don't care about it that much," Lennon Chang, the president of Australasia Taiwan Study Association and a senior lecturer at Monash University, said.

"We grew up under China's threats and intimidation, hence many in Taiwan wouldn't have any reaction.

"It is not the first time we hear about this."

Dr Chang said many Taiwanese Australians hoped Canberra and Taipei would take a step forward in bilateral relations, with Australia emulating Washington's approach by sending a senior official to Taiwan.

"Differences still exist in the community… but we all want Taiwan and Australia to have a positive relationship," Dr Chang said.

'A short-term impact'

Not all Taiwanese are happy with Nancy Pelosi's visit, with some demonstrating outside the hotel where she was supposed to be staying. (AP: Chiang Ying-ying)

Wen-Ti Sung, a lecturer from the College of Asia and Pacific at the Australian National University, said most Taiwanese were supportive of Ms Pelosi's visit, but they were just "watching it quietly".

"It is a very visible milestone for Taiwan's international visibility and for Taiwan-US relations in the short term," Mr Sung said.

Mr Sung said Beijing's economic sanctions — such as import bans on Taiwanese companies producing pastries, baked goods, frozen fish and citrus fruits — may only have "a short-term impact", given Ms Pelosi was due to leave her position as Speaker in a few months.

"At that time, Beijing could have a step down and say, 'Let's reset it,'" Mr Sung said

Ms Lien said Ms Pelosi's assurance that the US would back Taiwan made her "more at ease and less fearful and panicked", given she was "worried about Taiwan's future security". 

"Even though we are separated by the Taiwan Strait, I don't think it would be a difficult thing for Beijing to attack Taiwan," she said. 

But Ms Liu said Taiwanese were used to Beijing's attempts at intimidation.

"I am not extremely worried and scared," Ms Liu said.

"We want to tell the world that Taiwan and mainland China are two different countries."

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