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Is China’s Mainland Tightening Its Policy Toward Taiwan?

Aug 26, 2019

On July 31st, the Chinese government announced that starting from August 1st, it would suspend the pilot project under which residents from 47 mainland cities can make personal visits to Taiwan. The announcement shocked both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and the Taiwan authorities quickly shirked their responsibilities. The mainland was terse in their explanation and only stating that their view of the “current cross-Strait situation” was their reason for restricting travel. Then, on August 7th, the mainland announced that it would suspend the participation of mainland movies and their personnel from taking part in the 56th Golden Horse Film Festival in Taipei. These two events have led to some speculations. Has the mainland’s Taiwan policy changed?

First, the halt to independent travel was a result of the Taiwanese authorities’ decision to tighten the cross-Strait exchanges policy, a policy which, at any time, can endanger the safety of the Chinese who travel to Taiwan from the mainland and also the Taiwan residents who are in contact with the mainland. Since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took office in Taiwan in 2016, it has been pretending to maintain the status quo while constantly trying to change it. Since 2019, in order to recover from its past defeat and to win in the 2020 election, DPP authorities have been taking risks in playing the Taiwan independence and sovereignty cards and have intensified their efforts to hinder cross-Strait exchanges. In the first half of the year, they revised the regulations governing people’s relations between the two sides of the Strait and completed the so-called five laws to protect Taiwan. In the second half of the year, they enforced the Refugee Law and amended the so-called “CPC Agents Law.” Above all, the identification of refugees targets people who are non-natives; for example, it deems residents of China’s mainland, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macao as foreigners or stateless persons. This allows Taiwan to smuggle the “Two Countries’ Theory” and the “One Country on Each Side Theory” into the Refugee Law. In addition, DPP authorities have also created more difficulties for and stepped up investigations of mainland people who travel to Taiwan as well as cross-Strait marriages. This means that DPP authorities have made independent mainland tourists to Taiwan vulnerable when they visit friends and participate in various activities. If these travelers make contact with party and government personnel on the island, it is highly likely that they will face sudden and unnecessary troubles. DPP authorities are doing everything they can for the election. It is possible they will make cross-Strait relations a target by creating various kinds of incidents, use mainland tourists as cannon fodder, and create hype for the election. In the process, the interests of mainland tourists that would like to visit Taiwan may suffer unnecessary harm at any time. Thus, it is not difficult to understand why the mainland would take such measures to protect the interests of mainland tourists visiting Taiwan. However, the suspension of independent travel does not cut all travel routes to Taiwan. Other channels that can fully protect the interests of mainland travelers in Taiwan and allow travel across the strait continue to remain unblocked, satisfying the desire of mainland compatriots and fully guaranteeing the rights and interests of mainland travelers.

As for the suspension of mainland movies and their personnel from taking part in the Golden Horse Film Festival, the goal is to prevent DPP authorities from manipulating the event by creating something out of nothing and to prevent injuries to people on both sides of the Strait. The Golden Horse Awards promote film production in Taiwan and recognize outstanding filmmakers of Chinese-language films. Historically, the awards have been widely praised by Chinese filmmakers and the mainland public. However, the film event, which has always avoided cross-Strait political disputes, caused political turmoil due to the Fu Yue incident last year when a Taiwanese filmmaker openly preached Taiwanese independence. Ultimately, the event failed to meet the original intention and focus on filmmaking. Instead, it became a political battle, and created a national embarrassment during the speech at the award ceremony. After the award ceremony, the mainland filmmakers and participants were all absent from the banquet. The event caused huge dissatisfaction among the mainland public. Since the beginning of this year, the Tsai Ing-wen administration has said one thing but done another, engaged in “green terror” in cultural exchanges, engaged in so-called opposition to Communist media, formulated “CPC agent clauses,” and arrested so-called mainland spies. If the mainland filmmakers at the Golden Horse Awards were to protest against speeches calling for Taiwan independence, the Taiwan authorities may persecute them as mainland spies and Taiwan filmmakers who want to express their attitudes would likely be labelled as CPC agents. There is no trust between the two parties, and it seems there is no trust in the DPP authorities on the mainland. Mainland film workers did not take part in the Golden Horse Awards to avoid situations which would aggravate cross-Strait contradictions and create new conflicts.

In short, mainland China’s Taiwan policy has been clear and consistent; that is, adhere to the 1992 Consensus, oppose Taiwan independence, and deepen cross-Strait economic and cultural exchanges. However, DPP authorities, for the sake of themselves and their party, continue to use the mainland and Hong Kong to not only create troubles and seek benefits but also to nibble at the status quo of cross-Strait relations and challenge the bottom-line of the cross-Strait relations. This is what the international community should be aware of.

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