Welcome Mainland Visitors, Establish a Cross-Strait Spiritual Platform
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 4, 2008
The first batch of mainland tourists to fly directly from the mainland will arrive on Taiwan today. As they would say on the mainland: “Welcome, welcome, we extend you a warm welcome!”
For tourists from the mainland, this is not merely tourism. What they want is bilateral, grass roots, cross-strait dialogue. For Taiwan, the host, this is not merely "the stimulation of domestic demand," this is not merely a practical matter. This includes the hope that their guests will take back memories of a Taiwan Experience.
The reactions of the mainland authorities and the ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan to this major event is amusing. The mainland authorities specially selected the first group of visitors to Taiwan. They were afraid they might spit on the sidewalk and embarrass their fellow mainlanders. The Taiwan authorities, meanwhile, busied themselves tidying up everything in sight. They were afraid their guests might see something they weren't supposed to. The reminds one of parents of a prospective bride and groom meeting for the first time. Each sides has its expectations. Neither side wants the other to see one's faults. Therefore this is not merely tourism. Ordinary people on both sides of the strait are clearly establishing a common "spiritual platform." They are checking each other out. They are checking themselves in the mirror. They are contemplating a common future.
Each year four million people from Taiwan visit the mainland, on business. The main attraction today is mainland tourists flying directly to Taiwan. The target is said to be 3,000 tourists arriving on Taiwan every day, nearly 1.1 million a year. News reports focus on the business opportunities and 40,000 jobs 60 billion yuan every year will bring. As a result, all eyes are on the "stimulation of domestic demand," and the economic benefits. We believe however that the real significance of direct flights of mainland tourists to Taiwan is the building of a "platform for spiritual exchange" between ordinary people on both sides of the strait. This will allow the true feelings of ordinary people to come to the fore. The initial exchange on Taiwan will become the subject of future cross-strait reflection. The two sides can then accumulate the private resources necessary to build a common future.
Some people see mainland tourists arriving on Taiwan purely as "economic resources." But we hope people from all walks of life will see their arrival as a cultural and social issue, and consider human feelings. In other words, people on Taiwan should see the arrival of mainland tourists on Taiwan from an elevated perspective, as a cross-strait spiritual exchange. People and money are both important. But people are more important than money. The arrival of mainland tourists should not be seen exclusively as a commercial opportunity. Treating mainland tourists merely as milque cows could kill the goose that lays the golden egg. One could end up winning another's wealth but losing his good will. One could even ened up losing both.
Some people say Taiwan's attractions won't stand up to comparison with Shanghai and Beijing. Taiwan's natural attractions won't stand up to comparision with Huangshan and Jiuzhaigou. Many people have concluded that Taiwan's most powerful attraction for mainland visitors is its "culture." But what is this "culture?" It is the sum total of 400 years of the Taiwan Experience. It has everything to do with the mainland and nothing to do with the mainland. It is the Presidential Palace, which was once the Provincial Governor's Palace. It is Ketegalan Boulevard, in front of the Presidential Palace, where the Red Shirt Army gathered. It is the KMT Headquarters Building, which faces the Presidential Palace, and which has since been sold. It is the 228 Memorial Park and the White Terror Monument adjacent the Presidential Palace. It is Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo, Lee Teng-hui, Chen Shui-bian, and Ma Ying-jeou. It is oyster omlets at the night market and fried rice noodles. It is how to cast your ballots at the polls, how to get into colllege, how to play the stock market. It is Betelnut beauties lining the roadside. It is the five or six evening television talk shows arguing about everything under the sun. All this is part of Taiwan's culture. To mainland visitors, this is the "Taiwan Experience." We do not believe our highest goal should be to herd mainland tourists through gift shops. If we take them on a deeper spiritual journey, sharing with them the "Taiwan Experience," we may provide visitors with an experience they will not soon forget. We are not talking about "brainwashing." Attempting to do so can only lead to a nasty backlash. We need only be honest and objective. We need only be ourselves. Taiwan's culture and Taiwan's attractions are different from the skyline of Shanghai or the Pearl Sea of Jiuzhaigou.
Actually, when it comes to mainland tourists to Taiwan, it would seem that the two sides are not yet ready. Otherwise there would be no panic to meet President Ma Ying-jeou's July 4 deadline for the first batch of tourists. The guests are already at the door, but the host is still cleaning house. From this day forth, cross-strait relations will be different. Taiwan's reception of mainland guests, and mainland guests' behavior as guests, will impact the "cross-strait platform for exchanges of the soul." Each side will be checking out the other. Each side will check himself in the mirror. Together they will contemplate a common cross-strait future.
Even tour bus drivers have been instructed to smile like fashion model Lin Chi-ling. Taiwanese enthusiasm at the prospect of mainland visitors is evident. We hope that Taiwan merchants along the mainland tourists' route will be eager not merely to profit financially from mainland vistors, but also to reach out to them. Only then will they and Taiwan will profit both financially and spiritually. Mainland visitors are willing to spend money to experience Taiwan. We only hope the "Taiwan Experience" they take back with them will be worth remembering.
2008.07.04 03:02 am