But instead of being cowed, the Taiwanese people are defiant. And it’s the mood of the song Fragile that
best exemplifies the feeling of the population towards China. That’s according to Vivien, from Taipei, who doesn’t want to be identified beyond a pseudonym.
“By watching [the video] you’ll get the vibe of how Taiwanese people see China’s provocative actions in general,” she says. “In Taiwan, we really appreciated Nancy Pelosi’s visit and the media all over the world showing their concern by covering the story.
“It means a lot to us and our voice needs to be heard. But you would probably be surprised how Taiwanese people reacted to the visit.”
As the island became the target of superpower sabre rattling, the population was not shaken.
“There is not much fear or anxiety here. People talk about China’s reaction and think it’s a bit funny, just like the Russian saying ‘China’s final warning’.”
In the 1950s and ’60s China would issue a final warning every time American military jets would patrol the Taiwan Strait – by 1964 there had been more than 900 of those final warnings, leading it to become a Soviet proverb meaning an empty threat.
Vivien explains that under the Taiwan Relations Act and Taiwan Travel Act, Pelosi is able to unequivocally visit Taiwan any time she wants. It doesn’t mean that she either denies the notion of One China or supports the independence of Taiwan.
“She came just to show she cares for Taiwan, democracy, and her respect of the status quo,” Vivien adds. “It was the Chinese government who brought the drama and made it seem like a huge deal. They arranged military drills near Taiwan.
“They made a lot of celebrities share a post on social media saying ‘There’s only one China’ during the visit. A famous Taiwanese singer, Hebe Tien, was sent loads of bullying messages from Chinese netizens just for posting a photo of herself eating pasta. Taiwanese people started posting pictures of pasta on Facebook and Instagram to make fun of it.”
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While leaders decide how diplomatic they want to be with each other, opinion is often formed by trending topics on social media. That is why Fragile was so powerful. A primary target was the ‘little pinks’, a name for the online army of Chinese nationalists who attack those considered to be attacking China.
The Great Firewall gets a mention, the Chinese government’s stringent censorship of websites including Facebook, Twitter, Google and, of course, YouTube.
“Swallow the apple, cut off pineapple,” sings Namewee, a reference to the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong being forced to shut down, and the fact that in March last year, China banned pineapple imports from Taiwan.
There are also mentions of Winnie the Pooh, a character taboo in China since President Xi Jinping took power and comparisons were drawn between him and the honey-loving silly old bear.
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The song is a mix of horribly serious issues – including the human rights abuses against the Uyghur
Muslim minority – and a panda playing in a ball pit.
Speaking to the BBC, Namewee said: “We get very angry about certain news but when our anger or hopelessness passes a certain point, we can only laugh at the absurdity of it. I wanted to use a sweet, sarcastic way to respond.”
Vivien agrees that China’s attempts to intimidate are ultimately self-defeating.
“For the past several decades, China’s moves only demonstrate again and again how different Taiwan and China actually are. Especially among the younger generation, the pro-democracy attitude gets stronger and stronger.
“The threat is always there, but it’s impossible to walk on eggshells every day. The only things we can do is to live our best lives and vote for what we believe in every election.”