Chinese provincial purchasing groups are beginning to resume their visits to Taiwan after more than six months’ absence, reportedly in response to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) call not to come ahead of last month’s presidential and legislative elections.
According to statistics from the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the number of visits peaked in the first three months of last year. However, the council said because of their failure to buy many items they requested, the groups have a reputation of not keeping their word.
During a meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City councilors in June last year, Ma said Chinese provincial governors’ and secretaries’ visits to Taiwan might give a bad impression, adding that he had informed China “through certain channels” to cut down the travel plans of high officials “for a certain amount of time.”
Ma won re-election in the Jan. 14 presidential election. Beijing is again asking its provincial and city leaders to form groups to visit Taiwan, not only in the name of “exchanges,” but also to make large purchases.
At the head of returning Chinese purchasing groups is Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong (郭金龍), who is slated to visit Taiwan for the first time on Feb. 16, the MAC said, adding that Guo also intended to visit KMT honorary chairmen Lien Chan (連戰) and Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), as well as Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).
Sources said that unlike past visits by purchasing groups, Guo’s group is aiming to be a “culture group” with a heavy emphasis on the Beijing Culture Week hosted in Taipei and other events, such as the play Lee Bai (李白) performed in Taiwan by the Beijing People’s Art Theater.
Sources added that April would see Jiangsu Province Secretary Luo Zhijun (羅志軍) come to Taiwan, and in May the Hubei Province group, which was supposed to come last year, but was delayed because of flooding of the Yangtze River and the Taiwanese elections, would also make a visit.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has criticized the Chinese purchasing groups, saying that most groups only made empty promises.
That was the main reason why Taiwanese have a bad impression of them, it said.
Every Chinese provincial or city group claims to bring NT$10 billion (US$339 million) of profit to Taiwan, but if they did as they said, “they would have brought at least NT$2 trillion in profits,” the DPP said, adding that if they had not left a bad impression, Ma would not have asked them to cut down their travel plans.
Despite DPP criticism, sources said that no matter which Chinese group visited Taiwan, they would not only continue promoting economic goals, but would also introduce cultural and literary events to let Taiwanese “further understand the Chunghua culture.”
Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer