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Chinese tourists in Taiwan in August 2008

11/10/2008

 

I blogged about the direct flights between Taiwan and China a while ago.[1] I checked the Tourism Bureau website for official figures again.[2] The number of Chinese tourists in Taiwan was 8,804 altogether in August. The widely reported average is therefore 284. However, the number of Chinese flying directly from China was only 1,542, which gives an average of 49 per day. The other 7,262 actually came through Hong Kong or Macao. The 3 day mid-autumn holiday in September only saw 713 and only one day out of the whole October Chinese national holiday saw over 1,000 per day[3] (I’m not sure how many came directly from China as figures in September and October are not available yet).

 

Please let me reiterate this: Chinese tourists were already allowed in through a 3rd country, HK and Macau when the DPP was in power and therefore Ma’s direct flight deal is actually not as beneficial as Ma suggested. Most people on those fights were actually Taiwanese travelling between China and Taiwan. I’m not saying those people shouldn’t benefit from direct flights but the income from tourism is far less than what Ma promised. To help those Taiwanese who have to travel between the two countries, the DPP actually had a pretty good package which doesn’t involve any compromise on sovereignty, national security and deals on cargo flights but Ma was too quick at giving away everything from Taiwan.

 

Even though I am personally not very keen on brining in so many tourists hastily, there are actually people who bought Ma’s argument and acted upon it. If there have been technical difficulties or insufficient promotions to attract a lot of Chinese tourists, Ma should have envisaged this and been more conservative in his promise and acknowledged his mistake. A lot of business and travel agencies put in huge investment in anticipation of that many tourists from China and now they are in need of support. The government is offering loans to travel agencies[4] when some believe they should be compensations. After his policy has clearly failed, he is still not changing his China-leaning policy and ignoring the huge dissatisfaction of his current direction.

 

Some critics have started to believe that Ma’s promise of improving the economy with closer ties with China was not genuine. They believe that ‘improving the economy’ was just an excuse to justify pushing Taiwan towards China and annexing Taiwan to China is what Ma really wants all along. More and more evidence seems to support this view.

 

Ma has used ‘cutting cost’ as an excuse to propose direct air routes between Taiwan and China. This would put Taiwan under serious security threat[5]. Ministry of Defence has changed its opposition on such a proposal recently. I wonder whether this change was based on professional assessment or under political pressure.

 

Even scarier is that Ma’s government refuses to let the parliament scrutinise any cross-strait negotiations after the Speaker urged the government to do so and the entire KMT caucus actually supported Ma on this one.[6] So far, the parliament has not seen the direct flight deal P.K. Chiang signed with the Chinese. In other words, if Ma’s government signs the whole Taiwan away to China, no one would ever know until it has really happened. This is actually unconstitutional even under the ROC system Ma seems to so rigidly hold on to. Some pan-Blue supporters still trust that Ma wouldn’t sell out Taiwan without realising that a well functioning democracy should rely on a well established system with checks and balance in place rather than a seemingly trustworthy person. If we put those bits together, the picture is getting more and more frightening for the Taiwanese by the day.


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