China’s initial cover-up of the COVID-19 outbreak has further deepened the distrust between Taipei and Beijing, dealing an irreparable blow to cross-strait exchanges, analysts said.
Since March 2018, when a US-China trade dispute began to unfold, decoupling from China has become a worldwide trend, which has been reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Chien Hsin University of Science and Technology professor Yen Chien-fa (顏建發) said on Friday.
Taiwan started distancing itself from China before the rest of the world with its New Southbound Policy and deepening its ties with like-minded nations, he said.
Yen said that he does not believe that anyone would buy China’s claim that it has no new confirmed COVID-19 cases, adding that the assertion has only deepened concerns among prospective investors about having to pay a huge price were they to start a business in China.
“Over the years, two stereotypes have become associated with China: Poor sanitation and a general disregard for lives,” Yen said.
“There is no telling what virus would emerge [in China] next. This scares people and discourages them from taking risks,” he said.
The pandemic has led Taiwan and other nations to take a good look at the flaws in China’s political system and governance, National Cheng Kung University professor of political science Hung Chin-fu (洪敬富) said.
The outbreak is happening as the “Taiwan identity” is being reinforced, which is fundamentally changing cross-strait exchanges, he said.
As complications in US-China relations are amplified by Washington’s ratification of the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act, cross-strait relations are also moving in a new direction and could never be the same, he said.
Commenting on the nation’s success in containing COVID-19, Hung said that it was helped by China banning individual tourists from visiting Taiwan.
Due to the political climate in the Taiwan Strait, Taipei has distanced itself from Beijing, which helped it to promptly suspend exchanges with China once the outbreak had occurred, he said.
National Immigration Agency statistics showed that the number of Chinese who visited the nation fell from 4.14 million in 2015 to 3.47 million in 2016, the year President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office. That number further dropped to 2.66 million in 2018.
Despite Beijing’s ban on individual tourists to Taiwan, 2.68 million Chinese tourists visited the nation last year.
After the virus broke out in China, the number of Chinese visitors fell from more than 80,000 in January to 5,157 in February and further to 1,297 last month.
There are still some resident certificate-holding Chinese spouses returning to Taiwan, in addition to some who were granted entry because they had contractual obligations to fulfill or were assigned to Taiwan by a multinational company, the agency said.
More than 230,000 Taiwanese tourists visited China in January, and by February, that figure had dipped to about 45,000, Tourism Bureau statistics showed.
Data from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office showed that 6.13 million Taiwanese visited China in 2018.
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