Places That Don't Exist Episode 5: Taiwan

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Places That Don't Exist Episode 5: Taiwan

Taiwan has one of the most powerful economies in the world, but it’s not allowed to have a seat at the United Nations and no major state recognises it as a proper country.

Under Chairman Mao the Chinese Communists defeated Nationalist rivals, who fled to Taiwan and took over. Taiwan has since become a stable democracy, but Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province, and wants it back.

Simon’s journey starts in Beijing and takes him to a main shopping street, where he finds China’s army – the world’s largest - recruiting with help from singers and goose-stepping soldiers. After seeing sights and finding old posters declaring Taiwan must be recovered, Simon heads to Taiwan.

First stop is a Taiwanese air-base, bristling with US-made fighters ready to defend against Chinese attack. China’s absolute determination to recover Taiwan has been largely forgotten by the world, but it could be the cause of World War 3: the US has promised to help Taiwan if China attacks.

Simon visits a Taiwanese island from where the Taiwanese fought a 20-year artillery duel with the Chinese. Times have changed: shops now melt old artillery shells into knives for Chinese tourists. On the main Taiwanese island Simon goes up Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building. In a night market he drinks snake blood and finds brothels staffed by Chinese mainland girls. At night a Taiwanese boy-band sing of their pride at being Taiwanese, rather than immigrant Chinese like their parents.

Next Simon visits one of the world’s largest schools, where the Head tells him how to control groups of children, then he visits a theme park housing tiny replicas of Chinese landmarks (as close as most Taiwanese get to visiting the mainland).

The programme finishes with frightening remarks by a senior Chinese government official, who says China is going to get the island back, whatever the cost.