Thursday, May 1, 2008

Keep your pants on, people.

TAIPEI, Taiwan--The talk of the town last week was a 9-member delegation of Chinese real estate developers coming to Taiwan. They made their way from the North to the South, and the media circus followed them every step of the way. The group was very gracious, even answering their stupid questions and smiling for the cameras. They were fairly good-natured. I’m sure that they’ve never seen a media like this before.

The DPP, of course, did not welcome the group and refused to meet with them. They accused the group of coming to play up the property market. But these people were not only housing developers but also looking into tourist spots, resorts, etc. Businessmen are political chameleons, and the victory by Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) certainly came as a welcome sign for them. I have no problems with them coming to check out the scene. Don’t we want people, Chinese or not, to invest in Taiwan?

But I do have a problem with our reaction--we’re almost begging them to come save us. Why does having 9 rich people from China give us so much hope? People in the tourism industry seem overly optimistic about closer relations with China. I’ve seen reports of travel agencies translating everything into simplified Chinese. Restaurants are printing menus with prices in RMB. Hotels are changing their bed sheets and bathrobes to welcome the anticipated Chinese tourists (what does that change really?). People are salivating at the thought of striking it rich when we open the flood gates, when we’re really just giving the Chinese government more reasons to swallow us up and more maneuvering room to screw us over.

And what about the rest of the world? Does the entire planet revolve around the Taiwan Strait? Is a minority of China’s population, the small percentage who can afford to travel, going to save our economy? Stanley Yen (嚴長壽), President of the Landis Hotels, said that we need to find some way to touch them beyond Taichung sun cakes and Alishan tea so that they would want to come back. Can we really compete with China in tourism? They certainly have more scenic spots due to their sheer size. There is another report of a wealthy group of Chinese women coming soon to Taiwan to have plastic surgery, breast implants, etc. Medical tourism? Now, that’s interesting!

Just as the KMT continues to revel in their Chinese party, Ma puts a screeching halt to the celebrations by tapping Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) from the Taiwan Solidarity Union as incoming Chairperson of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC). She has single-handedly ruled the airwaves this week. If you had just stepped off the plane in Taiwan, you would think that the KMT just lost another election. After the press conference in which Premier Liu Chao-hsuan (劉兆玄) announced the 2nd wave of Cabinet appointments (including Lai), a woman comes running up to him as he is about to get into his car, leaving only the car door between this high-ranking official and the angry women. Apparently, someone has encroached on the KMT entitlement to the entire government of Taiwan. Supporters are calling KMT headquarters either in tears or in outrage that they’ve been betrayed by Ma. KMT legislators are already asking Lai to step down (before she even starts), concerned about how China will react.

I give Ma credit for thinking outside of the blue box. I think it was more a butt-kissing gesture to former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), since Lai is his protege. It’s also a consolation prize for those who didn’t vote for him. She may just be a puppet, as President Ma made it clear shortly after her appointment that he is still in charge of cross-strait policies. Premier Liu mentioned during his press conference that Lai agrees with Ma’s China policy. What is Ma’s China Policy? If it’s just the 3 No’s (no unification, no independence and no war), then it’s not all that revolutionary from President Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) 4 No’s.

The 4 No’s were part of Chen’s inauguration speech in 2000. His first premier (1 of 5) was Tang Fei (唐飛), a military man and former head of the Ministry of Defense. I’ve always wondered why him, when rumors back then had Chen considering someone like Lee Yuan-tse (李遠哲). It may well have been to prevent a military uprising. The green picked a blue then, and now the blue has picked a green-ish. Eight years ago, Chen chose Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for the MAC Chair. She was the scholar who worked for former President Lee and was credited for the “state to state” relations theory. Tsai’s performance as head of the MAC catapulted her to stardom. Will Lai follow in her footsteps, or will she share Tang’s fate? He lasted 5 months.


Dracil said...

Medical tourism's not so bad. Better than China's counterfeit tourism and Thailand's sex tourism at least.

Justin Ling said...

That was rather informative; nice expression of opinion there Daphne. Keep it up!