In comparison with the arrival of Chinese tourists on direct flights earlier this month, a special travel guide tailor-made for Chinese tourists traveling to Taiwan does not seem to have attracted a lot of attention. However, by comparing the contents of the guide — produced by China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and the Shanghai City Government — with efforts in recent years to make the Chinese more familiar with Taiwan, one can see that Beijing has been consciously adjusting Chinese views toward Taiwan.
In the short term, these adjustments are aimed at preventing conflict between people from different sides of the Taiwan Strait during next month’s Olympic Games; in the long term, these adjustments are attempts to prepare for a larger strategic adjustment.
The Olympics are Beijing’s foremost event to affirm and strengthen its status as a super power — an event with as much significance as the handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Thus, since the second half of last year, China has been devoted to verifying and examining any possible factors that could lead to disturbances at the Olympics.
With only more than a month until the Games, Beijing allowed Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan, breaking various taboos that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has held for decades. This move was not only aimed at consolidating relations between China and Taiwan, but also at avoiding clashes that could result from differences in Taiwan.
Beijing and Taipei have clashed many times because of different opinions on Taiwan. Taiwanese representatives have a fair amount of resentment toward China as they have often been subject to attacks from their Chinese counterparts at sporting events and other occasions over displaying Taiwan’s national flag or singing the national anthem.
With the Olympics just around the corner, China has been vexed by problems such as supporters cheering slogans and holding up signs for both the Chinese Taipei team and the China team, the titles used to refer to Taiwan by the Chinese Olympic Committee and media outlets, and putting appropriate safety measures in place.
If Taiwan missed the Olympics for political reasons, the situation would be simpler. Although cross-strait relations are starting to warm up, teams and spectators from Taiwan and China are obviously not as well trained as official negotiators. Emotions are likely to get out of control and result in conflict. It is almost impossible to expect that people from either side of the Strait will be ready for the event.
Additionally, with advanced communication technology and China’s tendency to “aggravate” things, news of any mishaps during the event will immediately spread to the entire world.
Beijing wants Chinese to familiarize themselves with Taiwan prior to the Olympics. Even though the Republic of China (ROC) flags were deleted from photographs of the statue of Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), the Presidential Office and Fort Santo Domingo in the travel guide, these places left a deep impression on the Chinese tourists who came to Taiwan and saw the sites for themselves. While the travel guide avoids references to the mausoleums of late dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), it does mention the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Kenting National Park and Chiang Kai-shek’s wife Soong Mayling (宋美齡).