China is leaving no stone unturned to hurt Taiwan. While on one hand it continues with its military activity around the island and on the other hand, it has adopted several financial coercive measures against Taiwan.
China has deliberately ignored Taiwan while allowing tourists to visit various countries. The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently announced a third round of outbound group tour services that would be resumed to 78 countries and regions, including the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India and most European countries, expanding the scope from 60 to 138 countries and areas. Taiwan remained off the list. This is sixth year since China imposed a ban on travellers to Taiwan.
Though Taiwan’s economy is not tourism driven yet the contribution of tourism in the economy is significant. According to available information, In 2021, the travel and tourism contribution (including indirect and induced contributions) as percentage of GDP in Taiwan was 4.3%, far less than Macao’s 61.3%, Thailand’s 21.2%, Hong Kong’s 16.7%, China’s 11%, or Japan’s 6.8%.
In 2019, China had unexpectedly announced a ban on travelling to Taiwan. There has been no change in China’s stand till date.Beijing had said at that time that it would suspend a program that allowed individual tourists from 47 Chinese cities to travel to Taiwan, citing the current state of relations between the two sides.
The ban became effective from Aug. 1, 2019. The intention behind this ban was to exert political pressure on Taiwan by limiting people-to-people interactions and isolating the island internationally. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism had clearly stated that Chinese nationals can only travel to Taiwan as tourists if they’re part of tour groups. The scheme had been in place since 2011 under the more China-friendly administration of former President Ma Ying-jeou.The strange part was that the ministry’s statement didn’t provide any further details as to the reason for the ban. The unexpected move came as China attempted to isolate Taiwan and Tsai Ing- wen, it’s independence-leaning president.
China has also used other forms of economic coercion against Taiwan, such as banning Taiwanese pineapples and other agricultural products. These measures are part of a broader campaign by China to pressure Taiwan to accept its terms for reunification.
In August 2022. China had suspended exports of natural sand to Taiwanand halted imports of fruit and fish products from the self-governed island, following the visit of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. In a warning salvo ahead of Pelosi’s visit, Chinese customs had suspended imports from 35 Taiwanese exporters of biscuits and pastries.
According to Reuters report, In January-June, China’s imports from Taiwan had reached 122.5 billion US dollars, up 7.3% from a year earlier, Chinese customs data showed. Top imported goods included integrated circuits and electronic components..
China’s top food and agricultural imports from Taiwan include seafood, coffee, dairy products, beverages and vinegar. In 2021, Beijing also suspended pineapple, sugar apple and wax apple imports from the island, citing pest concerns.
China has long used tourists as tools of economic coercion to suppress democratic nations. In addition to limiting Chinese tourists to Taiwan after President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016.In that year, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan fell by 40% which had a significant negative impact on the economy.
In March 2007, China halted exports of natural sand to Taiwan due to environmental concerns. The ban lasted for a year. According to Chinese official data, more than 90% of Taiwan’s natural sand imports came from China in 2007.
Meanwhile, Taiwan has decided to loosen restrictions on Chinese business and group travellers in a step towards resuming tourism exchanges with China.Taiwan had reopened its borders to most tourists last October after years of Covid pandemic closures but travellers from mainland China remain barred.The Mainland Affairs Council, the Taiwanese government body in charge of cross-strait relations made the announcement. Individual Chinese nationals
can also apply to enter Taiwan from another country from September 1 onwards.
, spokesman Jan Jyh-horng said.”We will also allow Chinese tour groups to come to Taiwan, but initially to a maximum of 2,000 people allowed in per day,” Jan said.He said the resumption of group tours would happen in a month to allow for “preparation time” but no specific date was given.Currently, only individual Taiwanese travellers can enter China.
China has not reacted on Taiwan’s new move. All eyes will be on China on its possible move. According to a news report from Teipei Times, there is no other country in the world like China that would use its own people as bargaining chips. Taiwan does not need Chinese tourists or their money, not to mention that the “all in one” model prevents profit from going to anyone other than Chinese.
The presence of Chinese tourists would only undermine Taiwan’s image, putting off tourists from other countries.