Hundreds of tourism workers yesterday took to the streets in Taipei, holding banners reading “No job, no life,” and “Taiwan and the Mainland are related like a family,” as they demanded that the government provide financial support, market incentives and policy leeway for business opportunities in response to the decline in the number of Chinese tourists.
While the financial and operational difficulties facing the tourism industry are understandable, many people cannot help but feel puzzled by the demonstrators’ appeals, with skeptical minds wondering exactly what the protesters hoped to accomplish.
There has been a sharp decline in the number of Chinese visitors since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party took office in May, with government statistics showing a 30 percent decline year-on-year in the number of Chinese group tours to Taiwan, whereas last year Taiwan had 10.5 million visitors, among which 4.18 million were from China.
Given that the drop in the number of Chinese visitors is a result of Beijing tightening its control and management of Chinese tourists to Taiwan, should the protesters not direct their grievances at the Chinese government, rather the Taiwanese government?
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson An Fengshan (安峰山) said in early June that the failure of the Tsai administration to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus” was why cross-strait contact and communications had been “suspended” since May 20.
In other words, tourists from China are not simply tourists like those from other nations, but tools used by the Chinese government as part of its “unification by trade” strategy for Taiwan.
Would it not be more reasonable for tourism operators, who followed the rosy picture of the Chinese tourist market painted by the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration without making due assessment of risk management and control, to direct their anger at former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for his government’s failure to warn them about the serious political risk that might be involved? Not to mention that the tourism operators have themselves to blame for not diversifying their consumer basis and not knowing the risk of putting all their eggs in one basket.
However, many tourism operators blame the Tsai government for its reluctance to accept the “1992 consensus” that China insists is the political foundation for cross-strait exchanges.
In case the tourism operators have not realized, what they are doing plays right into the hands of China, which is using the sneaky strategy of using commerce to achieve its political goals by enforcing economic sanctions to pressure Taiwanese businesses.
If the government caves in to the tourism operators’ wishes and accepts the “1992 consensus” in exchange for the resumption of the large flow of Chinese visitors to Taiwan, it would just mean that China’s “unification by trade” strategy works, and would pave the way for more of these economic gimmicks to achieve its political goals by coercing the Taiwanese government through Taiwanese businesses.
According to information from the Tourism Bureau, in contrast with the decline in the number of Chinese tourists, there has been an increase in the number of visitors from Japan and South Korea from January to July this year. Figures from the bureau show that 6.28 million international visitors arrived in Taiwan from January to July, which is 7.93 percent more than the same period last year.
The nation’s tourism outlook is not as bleak as the protesters claimed, and hopefully the people who took to the streets yesterday could work together with the government by providing constructive suggestions, rather than allowing themselves to be used by China as a tool to coerce the government.
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