From the red-carpet treatment they have been receiving since they started arriving in Taiwan, one would think that the thousands of Amway China tourists visiting the country were god-like creatures sent from a faraway kingdom.
Greeted by crowds, special performances, the media and showered with gifts, the Chinese visitors are being turned into objects of near-veneration, as if they were — to quote an infamous official at one of the nation’s representative offices abroad — “superior” beings visiting an uncivilized land.
Meanwhile, other, larger tourist segments — such as the 1.08 million Japanese who topped the list of visitors last year — have not received any special treatment, despite historical ties and the far greater impact they have on the tourism sector.
Rather than treating them as special guests and giving them — with undertones of an inferiority complex — more importance than they should receive, Chinese visitors should be exposed to the openness and freely expressed diversity that starkly distinguishes Taiwan from China.
Chinese tourists should not be isolated in their tour buses, like nobles in a protective sedan chair zigzagging a Jurassic Park where dangers lurk, driven from one safe spot to another. Otherwise, Taiwan will simply be mimicking what the Chinese do whenever foreign officials visit their country: present an incomplete and sanitized — if not false — picture of the country.
In China’s case, poverty, environmental catastrophe and political dissent are hidden from view, giving visitors the impression that all is well.
In Taiwan, what is being sanitized for Chinese consumption, ironically, are the great accomplishments of the past two decades — the benefits of free speech, liberalism and democracy, where Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, sexual minorities, government critics and others live together, with little fear of persecution.
For their own benefit, Chinese visitors should not be prevented from coming in close contact with people and groups who need to express their anger at Chinese authorities by demonstrating.
Conversely, Taiwanese should stop treating Chinese visitors as if they were nothing more than cash cows, with reporters asking them again and again how much they plan on spending here. These are questions that would never be asked of visitors from other countries.
Not only is it impolite to do so, but when the people in question happen to be Chinese, it politicizes tourism and plays into the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s misleading contention that Chinese will save Taiwan’s economy.
So pointless is the question, in fact, that depending on one’s perspective, the same answer can lead to two interpretations: See how little they’re spending, opponents of Ma’s policies will say. See how much they’re spending, his supporters will counter. Regardless, in the end, however much they spend, Chinese visitors will not “save” Taiwan’s economy.
If cross-strait travel is to avoid becoming more than it should be, we must avoid politicizing it. This means treating Chinese visitors no differently — as neither gods nor cash cows — than we would others, and putting the same amount of energy into giving them the opportunity to explore what makes Taiwan special that we would for visitors from the US, Japan, South Korea and the EU.
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Forward Forum in Taipei, former Singaporean minister for foreign affairs George Yeo (楊榮文) proposed a “Chinese commonwealth” as a potential framework for political integration between Taiwan and China. Yeo said the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait is unsustainable and that Taiwan should not be “a piece on the chessboard” in a geopolitical game between China and the US. Yeo’s remark is nothing but an ill-intentioned political maneuver that is made by all pro-China politicians in Singapore. Since when does a Southeast Asian nation have the right to stick its nose in where it is not wanted
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has released a plan to economically integrate China’s Fujian Province with Taiwan’s Kinmen County, outlining a cross-strait development project based on six major themes and 21 measures. This official document by the CCP is directed toward Taiwan’s three outlying island counties: Penghu County, Lienchiang County (Matsu) and Kinmen County. The plan sets out to construct a cohabiting sphere between Kinmen and the nearby Chinese city of Xiamen, as well as between Matsu and Fuzhou. It also aims to bring together Minnanese cultural areas including Taiwan’s Penghu and China’s cities of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou for further integrated
During a recent visit to Taiwan, I encountered repeated questions about “America skepticism” among the body politic. The basic premise of the “America skepticism” theory is that Taiwan people should view the United States as an unreliable, self-interested actor who is using Taiwan for its own purposes. According to this theory, America will abandon Taiwan when its interests are advanced by doing so. At one level, such skepticism is a sign of a healthy, well-functioning democratic society that protects the right for vigorous political debate. Indeed, around the world, the people of Taiwan are far from alone in debating America’s reliability
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and