News / Asia

Mainland Chinese Begin Visiting Taiwan

The first individual Chinese tourists hold up gift bags as they arrive at the Songshan airport in downtown Taipei, Taiwan,  June 28, 2011
The first individual Chinese tourists hold up gift bags as they arrive at the Songshan airport in downtown Taipei, Taiwan, June 28, 2011
Ralph Jennings

Taiwan has for the first time begun allowing mainland Chinese travelers to visit on their own, outside of tour groups. The new policy beginning Tuesday is expected to help the island’s economy and ease political tension between the two long-time rivals by bringing people closer together.

Many people in mainland China believe that Taiwan belongs to their government and they still long to see its fabled mountain attractions or soak up its traditional Chinese culture. But they have been barred from visiting, except on restrictive group tours, because self-ruled Taiwan feared some would come as spies or overstay their travel permits. Beijing has never renounced using force against Taiwan if it veers toward formal independence.

Similarities on display

Mainland Chinese colloquially call Taiwan a “treasure island” for its high mountains, tropical beaches and traditional Chinese culture weakened on the mainland by decades of Communist rule.

Thirty-year-old Lin Baijia came to Taiwan with three friends from the nearby Chinese city Xiamen to see the basics. She’s one of the first independent travelers and already plans to come back.

Lin says this time they will visit major attractions such as Sun Moon Lake and mountainous Alishan. Being from a nearby part of China, they are upbeat about Taiwan, especially the similar language and warmth of local people. She hopes to return to Taiwan as time allows, since it’s legal and transportation is easy, to explore it in more depth.

A travel agent gave the group of friends a bit of information on Taiwan, but they will roam about as they wish. That way they can experience Taiwanese people’s habits, their pace of life and whether they differ from people back home.

Taiwan opened to mainland group tours after political tensions began to ease in 2008 through trade talks brokered by Taiwan’s China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou. That brought 2.34 million visitors and pumped $3.8 billion into the struggling service sector while causing few headaches for the Taiwanese government. To expand on the economic benefits, Taiwan opened this month to individual travelers from increasingly wealthy China.

Advancing China's goal

Political observers say letting tourists roam as they please will go over well with officials in Beijing, which encourages contact between the two sides to emphasize that both belong to the same race and can get along despite fears or stereotypes. They say stronger people-to-people ties would advance China’s goal of eventual political unification more than six decades after Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists lost the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists and fled to Taiwan.

Chinese group tourists often complain that group tours allow too little free time, a measure to discourage illegal activity. Some get bused away so fast that they can’t see the regionally fabled  Alishan sunrise or digest the vast Chinese art collection at Taipei’s National Palace Museum.

Taiwan’s tourism bureau says it expects the newly independent tourists will linger in high mountains, tiny villages and urban back alleys with hallmarks of old Chinese culture such as temple fairs. Tourist Lai Zhengyi looked forward to that freedom as he deplaned in Taipei.

The company executive from Xiamen says solo travelers can go anywhere they want without dealing with the legal restrictions of guided tours. Now he can travel in Taiwan like he would anywhere else in the world, which will help Taiwan’s overall economic development. He plans to visit Sun Moon Lake, a Taiwan landmark known to most mainland Chinese, and its exclusive Lalu Hotel. He says he also wants to check out what is available to purchase in local real estate.

Lai joined 282 others from China on Tuesday in starting their solo trips around the island. Rules allow for as many as 500 per day, with limits of 15 days per person. So far officials say the program is still a trial, but excitement about the program has led some to consider opening the island’s restrictive parliament sessions to individual tourists so they can see democracy in action.


You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid