Tourists granted front row seats to China's latest fire and fury

Sébastien Ricci, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 04 2022 07:39 PM

Smoke trails from projectiles launched by the Chinese military are seen in the sky as tourists look on from Pingtan Island, one of mainland China's closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022. Hector Retamal, AFP
Smoke trails from projectiles launched by the Chinese military are seen in the sky as tourists look on from Pingtan Island, one of mainland China's closest point from Taiwan, in Fujian province on August 4, 2022. Hector Retamal, AFP


The hum of holiday vibes and the selfie-snapping is interrupted by the roar of explosions as projectiles shoot up into the sky, prompting oohs and aahs from the surprised tourists. 

Visitors to Pingtan island, a popular destination with resplendent sea and reefs that attracts thousands of visitors every summer, have been granted a front row seat to China's latest fury at Taiwan.

The unprecedented military exercises are a response to this week's visit to the self-ruled island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- seen by Beijing as a major provocation. 

The closest point in mainland China to Taiwan, about 125 kilometres away across the strait, Pingtan lies on the frontlines. 

Tourists in shorts, t-shirts and caps defy the 38 degree Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature and crowd on the eastern tip of the island. 

But the afternoon beach fun is swiftly punctuated by the boom of missile fire across the Taiwan Strait, sending tourists' heads spinning. 

Their cameras swiftly shift from documenting family fun to the latest geopolitical missive between Beijing and Taipei, facing the azure sky to capture the projectiles soaring from military installations located only a few kilometres away. 

"It's a little worrying all that... come on, let's go," a woman carrying a parasol to protect herself from the sun told her friends as other anxious tourists broke camp. 

Further on, another group of tourists arrive to find out what all the commotion is about. 

"We suddenly heard a huge noise. It surprised us at the time!" a student who came with friends and who introduces himself as Jack, tells AFP. 

"If we were scared? Not at all", says the smiling young man. 

The Chinese military manoeuvres, which are taking place in six maritime areas around Taiwan, began Thursday noon (0400 GMT) and will continue until Sunday noon (0400 GMT).