Thu, Jun 09, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Close the door to Chinese tourists

During Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) visit to China, Beijing announced it would allow Chinese tourists to travel to Taiwan. Recently, Taiwan's pro-China media have published reports about what these tourists might like to eat and what they would buy. Some reports enthused over the free-spending ways of Chinese tourists and their purchasing power, even suggesting that Chinese entrepreneurs enjoy viewing houses on Yangminshan with an eye to buying property there. Clearly, the pro-China media envision these tourists leading a recovery of the real estate market, even though not a single deal has yet been made.

It's hard not to laugh when reading such reports, which seem to suggest that all Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan will be high-rollers. The whole prospect has been wildly exaggerated. If such reports were to be believed, the Chinese are the richest people in the world.

It is true that some of the Chinese tourists are big spenders. The government is formulating strict policies to regulating the visits of Chinese tourists. Except for people who are visiting their relatives and working in this country or traveling with organized groups, most of these travellers are Chinese government officials or employees of China's state-run enterprises. Since they do not have to spend their own money while travelling here, it is hardly surprising that they spend freely.

The government should not allow unrestricted Chinese tourism. Leaving aside China's political and military threats against Taiwan, Chinese tourists remaining in this country after their visas expire or using tourism as a pretext to find work and other issues will lead to social and legal problems. Since Taiwan is a small nation it would only take a wave of a few hundred thousand illegal workers and immigrants to cause social order in Taiwan to collapse.

As for the political and security risks, who does not believe that Beijing would use the door opened by legal tourism to build a more far-reaching and comprehensive spy network in this country? If China were to launch an attack, this fifth column could attack the national defense network.

The issue of Chinese tourism has considerable economic implications as well. Given China's huge population, 2 million visits a year would not be at all impossible. This presents a bright prospect for Taiwan's airline, tourism and restaurant industries, with the probability of massive construction to meet increased demand. The result of this would be to put Taiwan's neck more firmly than ever in China's noose, because Beijing could just as easily halt the flow of tourists to this country and these industries would bear the brunt of such a blow.

After China announced that it would permit tourism to Taiwan, reports from Shanghai revealed that the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee had ordered the media to refrain from reporting on this matter. There has been no further word from Beijing about how tourism to Taiwan is to be handled, further raising suspicion as to the motives behind China's proposal.

The whole Chinese tourism offer is likely a ploy by Beijing to use Taiwan's pro-China forces to assist it in further deepening the domestic rifts over cross-strait policy. The government should give China the same answer to its offer of tourists as it did its offer of pandas -- thanks, but no thanks.

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