TENSIONS IN CHINA
MARCH 11, 1996
Taiwan continues to stand firm against war games planned by Mainland China. Ian Williams of Independent Television News reports from Taiwan on how the people, the politics and the markets are weathering these latest tensions.
IAN WILLIAMS, ITN: The United States has rarely deployed this much naval fire power in the region since the Vietnam War. The aircraft carrier Independence and her battle fleet now steaming towards Taiwan, will be joined by the nuclear-powered Nimitz and five of or six of her support ships. Their fire power is formidable. Elsewhere in Taipei, where the crisis is dominating the Presidential election campaign, officials stressing that the role of the fleet is to watch not intervene, though they welcome it as a stabilizing factor. The markets didn't see it that way, though. Across the region, they tumbled. Green represents a sell. Red is a buy. Taiwan stocks fell by 2 percent, in spite of heavy government intervention, while neighboring Hong Kong, influenced also by a fall on Wall Street, finished 7 percent down.
ANNIE HAI, Grand Cathay Securities: People feel that it looks like war is imminent with the fleet present because it's, umm, interpreted, at least by close friends of mine, as a negative factor to the security, rather than a positive factor.
MR. WILLIAMS: Taipei city officials trying to reassure a nervous population are reopening massive air raid shelters and an emergency control center built inside the hills at a secret location outside the city. They explained to us how the bunker has fallen into despair over the past decade, while relations with China have been improving. They're now moving rapidly to re-equip both the bunker and air raid shelters which together, they estimate, can hold up to 4 million people. For the past 20 years, this bunker was the responsibility of Lin Chu Rong and his family, who are somewhat taken aback by the sudden activity.
LIN CHU RONG, Caretaker: (speaking through interpreter) The best thing would be if we didn't have to use it at all, isn't that right?
MR. WILLIAMS: The Chinese war games beginning tomorrow will be far bigger than last year, covering 17,000 square kilometers and virtually closing the Southern mouth of the Taiwan Strait. Taipei insists they'll show restraint.
ADM. DUN HWA GO, Presidential Defense Adviser: We are not trying to provoke anything, so this time we have decided to wait until they start first, because we do not want to be blamed on the starting of the situation.
MR. WILLIAMS: It was reported today that Hong Kong shipping companies are telling their vessels to keep clear of Taiwan during the eight days of exercises, while airlines are preparing to reroute their flights, a move that will hit services on the busy Hong Kong route. New opinion polls show that China's actions are increasing support for independence, precisely what they claim to be trying to prevent, while officials here believe China's aim now is to force the winner of the Presidential election to accept a firm timetable for unity, something that may be politically impossible to accept. The pressure will be racked up tomorrow when China begins its latest war games, this time using live ammunition. Officials here believe they'll take the form of a mock attack on Taiwan and will involve warships, fighter aircraft, and 150,000 troops. Those same officials now concede they might have been wrong in their early description of the exercises as merely show.