Before the covid pandemic I used to go to Taiwan every three months, plus I spent the summers of 2018 and 2019 there with my family. Now, after this little three-year pandemic break, I have just gone there and plan to start visiting frequently again. I was curious to take the pulse of the situation since, compared to years ago when I needed to explain to my fellow Europeans where Taiwan was and what it was, now the island nation is regularly in the news and sometimes in the media it almost seems as if a Chinese invasion is imminent

So I asked a non-representative sample of Taiwanese society (90% men in their thirties and forties employed in the chemical industry) what they thought of the Chinese threat and the answers were always more or less ‘barking dogs never bite’. Now, I understand that one cannot live with a constant sense of danger but sometimes I get the impression that Taiwanese tend towards the exact opposite, i.e. living in denial of the threat.

The Taiwanese in their daily lives think about all the trivial things that the relaxed citizens of liberal democracies think about, since the Taiwanese are citizens of a liberal democracy they have every right to do so. Unfortunately for them, and for the rest of us in liberal democracies, they have this bully neighbour who makes claims. I’m certainly not an expert on international politics, but I feel that after the Russian fascists' invasion of Ukraine, we can expect anything from dictators detached from reality. Balancing the relaxed life of a liberal democracy with the external totalitarian threat is by no means easy, and I do not envy the Taiwanese government having to make unpopular and difficult decisions such as increasing military conscription to one year (does it help? I don’t know).

My non-representative sample of Taiwanese society does not seem impressed.