An overflow of PRC tourists, money

By Paul Lin 林保華

Friday, May 08, 2009, Page 8

Taiwan has been described as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” but now it seems to be sinking under the deluge of Chinese tourists attracted by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) China-friendly policies.

During the Chinese Civil War, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) often accused the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of using a “sea of people” tactic against the KMT, which eventually fled to Taiwan. In CCP parlance, this was called “people’s warfare.”

After establishing the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the CCP continued to apply people’s warfare to its political movements and socialist structure, calling it a mass movement. The result was millions of people dead in the Great Leap forward. The same approach was applied to reform and the open-door policies, which gave rise to the saying: “Of a billion people, 900 million were cheated, and the rest were in training.”

When the US supported the democracy movement in China, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) warned that if the CCP collapsed, 100 million Chinese would flood out of China. That scared both the US and the KMT.

Ma, however, has dismantled Taiwan’s political, economic, cultural and military defenses and invited China’s “sea of people” to Taiwan, and the flood has increased from a few hundred people a day a few months ago to 10,000 a day last month. Deregulation is not wrong, but it should be accompanied by measures that would prevent Chinese from crowding out Taiwanese. One major risk is they might deprive Taiwanese of their right to a job.

Even after its handover in 1997, Hong Kong still does not recognize Chinese degrees, although some of the territory’s universities have tried to attract Chinese students. Statistics show that of the 14,000 Chinese students studying in Hong Kong in 2007, 99 percent wanted to remain there to work. Despite Hong Kong’s stricter laws, more than 1,000 students have managed to do so. Isn’t it time for Taiwanese youth to stand up and defend their rights?

The Chinese suppression of Tibetans last spring resulted in clashes between Chinese students in Hong Kong and local students, and this year has seen further clashes over the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. Hong Kong is helpless to a certain extent because it is restricted by the “one country, two systems” model. Taiwan, however, is a democracy. A viewer who called a TV talk show suggested that Chinese wanting to study in Taiwan should have to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country before they are allowed to do so. I think that is a great idea.

In addition to China’s “sea of people” tactic, it is now employing a “sea of money.” To show the world that its economy is back on its feet, Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) already spent in the first quarter of this year 90 percent of the year’s financial credit to stir up a stock market frenzy.

That may have saved the stock market, but not the economy. The surge in Chinese equities has also kick-started the Hong Kong and Taiwanese stock markets.

Although Taiwan has just passed legislation to ease restrictions on Chinese investment, Chinese funds have long flowed into Taiwan clandestinely. This is why the TAIEX was able to surge from a low 4,000-plus points to above 6,000 points so quickly despite international financial institutions’ bearish outlook on Taiwan and market fundamentals remaining weak.

Who stands to benefit from this market surge? Not the middle class, which has already lost a money when the stock market went into a free fall, nor the working class struggling to make a living. It is the powerful and privileged group that the government has encouraged to enter the market that will make money. The KMT-CCP platform for cooperation is now supporting the stock market and Ma.

The reason Taiwan is drowning in money is that someone wants to buy Taiwan. In the short term, the middle class may be allowed to share in some of the spoils, but the gap between the rich and the poor will only continue to widen. What’s even more frightening is the sovereignty risks that the government is taking.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in Taiwan.

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