Illustration by Sam Ward MATSU, TAIWAN – In February and March of this year, when the mayor of Nangan township, Lin Zhidong, wanted to check his email, it meant walking 15 minutes across the rolling hillside from his office to a crowded phone company outpost where he could connect to a WiFi hotspot and wait for his messages to load. This was far from the normal state of being for the people of the Matsu islands, which — while a 3 hour ferry ride from Taipei — is part of Taiwan and home to a vibrant tourism industry. But access to the internet for Lin and 14,000 other Matsu residents started to deteriorate on February 2, when a Chinese fishing vessel severed the first of two subsea cables connecting the islands to mainland Taiwan. Then, six days later, an unidentified cargo ship severed the second cable, the only other link to the Taiwanese mainland. The chain of 36 islands and islets, which is slightly more than five miles away from the People’s Republic of China at its closest point, wSubscribe or login to read the rest. Subscribers get full access to: Exclusive longform investigative journalism, Q&As, news and analysis, and data on Chinese business elites and corporations. We publish China scoops you won't find anywhere else. A weekly curated reading list on China from David Barboza, Pulitzer Prize-winning former Shanghai correspondent for The New York Times. A daily roundup of China finance, business and economics headlines. We offer discounts for groups, institutions and students. Go to our Subscriptions page for details.