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Tea Leaves

In China's shadow, Taiwanese keep calm and carry on

For Taipei, this is the best and worst of times

Military helicopters fly near the Taipei 101 building during a rehearsal ahead of National Day celebrations in Taiwan's capital in October 2021.

On a wall in Woolloomooloo, an Australian-themed restaurant in Taipei's business center, hangs a poster advertising the Hong Kong movie "Revolution of Our Times" (2021), which is banned in China and Hong Kong. Alongside the movie image are an anti-nuclear poster and a rainbow flag symbolizing LGBT rights. Below it, 15 newspapers are on display, including the government-supporting Liberty Times and the pro-opposition United Daily News.

The restaurant wall is a fitting example of Taiwan's robust freedom of speech, unique in the Chinese-speaking world, and the island's evolving role as a hub for exiles from less tolerant parts of the region. But Woolloomooloo's traditional British and Australian cuisine -- fish and chips, Earl Grey tea cake and meat pies are popular offerings -- also evokes Taiwan's growing embrace of Britain's famous wartime slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On."

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