XIAMEN, China (AFP) – On a beach in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen, just a few kilometres from an island controlled by the Taiwanese authorities, life is carefree despite some of the worst cross-strait tensions in decades.

Ignoring stark warnings from Beijing, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived late on Tuesday (Aug 2) in Taiwan – the highest-ranking elected US official to visit the island in 25 years – sparking a diplomatic firestorm.

China on Thursday launched some of its largest-ever military drills in response – exercises set to disrupt one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

But on Xiamen’s palm-fringed beach, on the west side of the 200-kilometre-wide strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China, there is little concern.

“A war? No, I don’t care,” a young IT worker surnamed Hwang tells AFP as he takes a lunchtime stroll.

“As residents of Fujian, we’re used to tensions in the Taiwan Strait. We’ve lived with them for decades,” he adds, referencing the frequent flare-ups between the two rivals since the 1950s.

China’s eastern Fujian province lies just across the sea from Taiwan, and the two share cultural ties as well as a common Chinese dialect.

‘We aren’t worried’

“Something could happen at any moment. But the probability is low, so we aren’t worried,” says Mr Hwang.

“But Pelosi’s visit breaks the balance that there was.”

Unfazed by the news, young newlyweds smile for photos, people walk their dogs, and children play in the sand.

“I think and I hope there won’t be a war,” Mr Zheng Dahai, a 30-year-old who brought his son to set up a tent on the beach and have a bite to eat, tells AFP.

“A conflict would have repercussions on us, our lives, there might even be injuries,” he says.