Image: Jerome Favre (Bloomberg/Getty Images)
When Beijing unexpectedly announced two days ago that it would stop issuing individual travel permits to Taiwan, the one-sentence statement from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism only cited “the current cross-strait relationship” (当前两岸关系 dāngqián liǎngàn guānxì) as the reason for the change.
Yesterday, per Reuters:
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Thursday that Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) promotion for independence has seriously dampened conditions for mainland citizens’ travel to the island.
Taiwan’s DPP has constantly provoked hostility towards mainland China and incited cross-strait opposition, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office was quoted by Chinese state television as saying.
State media outlets also piled on, with the Global Times saying, “DPP’s extreme policies hurting island,” and a China Daily editorial dutifully repeating the Party line: “Tsai’s provocations come at a cost.”
Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 Cài Yīngwén), had this response, according to Focus Taiwan:
“Tourism shouldn’t be politicized,” Tsai said at a press briefing. “Politicized tourism is not sustainable tourism either.”…
In Tsai’s comments on Thursday, she said it has long been a strategy by China to clamp down on tourism to Taiwan ahead of the latter’s major elections, like the January 2020 presidential vote.
The latest travel ban, however, was “a major strategic mistake,” Tsai said.
Some observers were skeptical that the travel ban by itself would mean much. Taipei City–based journalist Emily Cardinali said, “When China punished Taiwan by restricting visas in the past, Taiwan tourism numbers continued to increase as they have this last decade. Tourism dollars from China often stay in Chinese tour companies. Tourism numbers will be fine.”
But a Global Times opinion piece threatened that there was more to come:
Considering the recent military exercises of the People’s Liberation Army, Beijing is not just thinking about playing simple economic cards to crack down on Taiwan secessionist forces… Beijing has a complete set of strategies regarding the Taiwan question, and the ban on individual travel is just a small part of the story.