In the last few weeks, Amway tourist groups from China flaunted their wealth as if they were the saviors of the Taiwanese economy; the Taiwan Hakka Forum Association threw its support behind a cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement; and the World Buddhist Forum allowed a politically inclined monk to defame the Dalai Lama and promote unification of Taiwan, Tibet and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and distort the tone of the forum.
At the same time, Chinese liberals who had been invited to attend an international symposium in Taiwan on rebuilding Chinese liberalism were harassed by PRC police after receiving visas from Taiwan and warned that they could not attend “anti-communist activities organized by overseas hostile forces.”
Taiwan’s accelerating implementation of policies that allow cross-strait exchanges between experts and that boost Chinese tourism to Taiwan are clearly suffering from ongoing and inappropriate intervention by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.
How the CCP decides whether Chinese nationals should visit Taiwan has nothing to do with what benefits accrue from cross-strait understanding, trust and friendship or improving the lives of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Instead, the primary consideration is the PRC’s political goals; nothing can be allowed to threaten the CCP’s hold on power.
But Beijing really does not understand that politically distorted cross-strait exchanges can only deepen mutual disrespect and probably serve to foment hostile nationalist sentiment on both sides.
Taiwan has a fertile environment, open-minded people and the space for thought necessary for the freedom that China lacks. And its experience is worth presenting to Chinese people for their consideration: It exhibits a continuation of Chinese culture, as well as the influences of Western and Eastern cultures, which are integrated with the traditions of local ethnic groups.
The resulting rich, diverse and dynamic culture of Taiwan enjoys political freedom that empowers people and gives them the courage to oppose the CCP.
The government should therefore encourage tourist organizations to include the National Taiwan Museum, the Taipei 228 Memorial Park, Eslite bookstores, the National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center, Liberty Square, Taipei Arena, Taipei Movie Street, and the Legislative Yuan in their itineraries for Chinese tourists.
Private firms and the media, meanwhile, should restrict their connection to or coverage of activities that sell out Taiwan.
Aside from officials, businesspeople and other privileged groups, exchanges should be expanded with civil society and intellectuals so that the Taiwanese public can gain a more complete and true picture of China, and so that they can identify the long-term interests and benefits for the nation and for people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Only if people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait unite in promoting democracy in China will the self-determination of the Taiwanese public be guaranteed.
Tseng Chien-yuan is an assistant professor of public administration at Chung Hua University.
TRANSLATED BY PERRY SVENSSON