China halts individual travel to Taiwan


31 July 2019

by Ludovic Ehret with Amber Wang in Taipei

China stepped up pressure on Taiwan on Wednesday as it announced the suspension of individual travel permits to the self-ruled democratic island “due to current cross-strait relations”.

Relations between Communist-ruled Beijing and Taipei have plummeted since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016 because her party refuses to recognise the idea that Taiwan is part of “one China”.

As punishment, Beijing has cut official communications, ramped up military exercises, poached diplomatic allies and ratcheted up economic pressure on the island.

The latest move comes as Taiwan prepares to hold a presidential election in January, with Beijing-friendly candidate Han Kuo-yu of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party hoping to defeat Tsai.

A programme had allowed Chinese citizens in 47 mainland cities to apply for permits to visit Taiwan on their own instead of visiting on group tours.

But the tourism ministry said in a brief statement that their issuance would be suspended from Thursday “due to current cross-strait relations” — a move that could hurt the island’s economy. The statement did not mention any restrictions on group tours.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top policy-making body on China, issued a statement to “sternly protest and condemn” the move, saying it was done unilaterally.

Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that by blocking mainland tourists, “the Chinese Communists act like they are afraid that the Chinese people will experience the sweet fruits of freedom and democracy.”

For his part, Tsai’s rival Han, who is mayor of Kaohsiung, urged China to “not equate” Taiwan’s people with the DPP, his city government said in a statement.

Weaponisation of tourism’

Taiwan experienced a sharp drop in mainland tourists after Tsai took office in 2016.

Tourism operators attributed the decline to a more negative portrayal of Taiwan in Chinese media, along with scaled-back promotion of tours by major Chinese travel agencies.

Since 2016 China has kept using its tourists as a weapon to threaten the DPP,” Tsai’s party said in its statement.

Taiwan will not bow to such political pressure and Taiwan will open its arms wider to embrace tourists from more countries,” the DPP said.

Mainland arrivals rebounded by around 30 percent in the first half of this year after the KMT won local elections in 2018, according to the Taiwan Visitors Association.

J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington, said Beijing had hoped that the drop in tourism in 2016 would lead to protests against Tsai, but it had not prevented individuals — who tend to be wealthier — from travelling.

This likely constitutes another round of ‘weaponisation of tourism’ by Beijing to put pressure on the Tsai administration,” Cole told AFP.

It’s reasonable to conclude that this is meant to add to President Tsai’s challenges as she seeks re-election in January, facing off against an opponent from the KMT who claims he will seek better, closer relations with Beijing and thereby help improve the economy.”

Military warning

Han is looking to unseat Tsai in a presidential election dominated by relations with China.

Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Chinastill views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it — by force if necessary.

Han, 62, said in a speech Sunday that the election would be a choice between “peace or crisis” with China.

Tsai, also 62, has described the election as a “fight for freedom and democracy”, setting herself up as someone who can defend Taiwan from an increasingly assertive Beijing.

The Chinese defence ministry issued a white paper last week reiterating Beijing’s willingness to use force to “resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China”.

Beijing has also lashed out at Washington over its close ties with Taipei and its plans to sell more weapons to the island.

An American warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait last week. The Chinese military, meanwhile, is holding military exercises southwest and north of Taiwan this week.

Source: HKFP “China halts individual travel to Taiwan”

Note: This is HKFP’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Chinese Travellers the Biggest Travel Spenders in the World


CNBC says in its report “These four places in Asia account for almost 20% of global travel spending” that according to Mastercard China ranks second only to the US in number of travelers but the first in spending.

However, the report says, “In terms of total travel spending, China dominated at 9.6%, followed closely behind by the U.S. at 9.2%.”

As China’s economy keeps on growing the spending will further grow. For some countries, China’s rise may be undesirable, but Chinese travelers spending is earnestly desirable.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on CNBC’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/22/mastercard-china-korea-japan-taiwan-represent-20percent-of-travel-spend.html.


Lavender boosts tourism in Xinjiang


Xinhua
Urumqi / Tue, June 25, 2019 / 09:02 am

Photo Kuytun winter

The beautiful scenery in winter of Kuytun grand canyon in XinJiang province northwest of China. (Shutterstock/smiling_z)

Swathes of beautiful lavender is luring a large number of tourists to Huocheng County in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

thejakartapost.com photo

The county is currently in the midst of an international lavender tourism festival, with lavender, local history, local cuisine and folk customs presented to visitors.

Huocheng is located on the same latitude as Provence in France, allowing them to share similar meteorological and soil conditions. It is the largest lavender production base in China and the third largest in the world. Its lavender planting area has reached 3,500 hectares, accounting for 97 percent of the country’s lavender output.

The county introduced lavender from France in 1965.

In recent years, government authorities guided local farmers towards lavender cultivation, helping them get rid of poverty. So far, about 800,000 tourists have visited the county to see the lavender.

Source: thejakartapost.com “Lavender boosts tourism in Xinjiang”

Note: This is thejapartapost.com’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Empty hotels, idle boats: What happens when a Pacific island upsets China


Farah Master August 19, 2018

KOROR, Palau (Reuters) – Empty hotel rooms, idle tour boats and shuttered travel agencies reveal widening fissures in the tiny Pacific nation of Palau, which is caught in an escalating diplomatic tug-of-war between China and Taiwan.

Late last year, China effectively banned tour groups to the idyllic tropical archipelago, branding it an illegal destination due to its lack of diplomatic status.

As China extends its influence across the Pacific, Palau is one of Taipei’s 18 remaining allies worldwide and is under pressure to switch allegiances, officials and business people there say.

“There is an ongoing discussion about China weaponizing tourism,” said Jeffrey Barabe, owner of Palau Central Hotel and Palau Carolines Resort in Koror. “Some believe that the dollars were allowed to flow in and now they are pulling it back to try and get Palau to establish ties diplomatically.”

In the commercial center of Koror, the Chinese pullback is obvious. Hotel blocks and restaurants stand empty, travel agencies are boarded and boats which take tourists to Palau’s green, mushroom shaped Rock Islands are docked at the piers.

Prior to the ban, Chinese tourists accounted for about half the visitors to Palau. Of the 122,000 visitors in 2017, 55,000 were from China and 9,000 from Taiwan, official data showed.

Chinese investors had also gone on a buying frenzy, building hotels, opening businesses and securing large swathes of prime coastal real estate.

The decline since the ban was announced has been so sharp, charter airline Palau Pacific Airways announced in July it would terminate flights to China, four hours away, from the end of this month.

The Chinese government was “putting an effort to slow or stop tourists going to Palau”, said the Taiwanese-controlled airline, which has experienced a 50 percent fall in bookings since the China restrictions began.

China has previously used its tourism clout as a diplomatic tool, last year halting tours to South Korea after Seoul installed a controversial U.S. missile defense system.

Asked if designating Palau an illegal destination was a way of putting pressure on it to move away from Taiwan, China’s Foreign Ministry said relations with other countries had to happen under the framework of the “one China” principle.

“The one China principle is the pre-condition and political foundation for China to maintain and develop friendly cooperative relations with all countries around the world,” it said in a statement to Reuters, without specifically addressing the Palau issue.

The “one China” principle is a core government policy that states Taiwan is an inseparable part of China.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says China has lured four countries to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in the past two years by offering generous aid packages and investment.

(For a graphic on Taiwan’s political allies click, tmsnrt.rs/2hpQ0xx)

“While Taiwan faces serious diplomatic challenges, the government will not bow down to pressure from Beijing,” the ministry said on its website. “Taiwan will work with friendly nations to uphold regional peace and stability and ensure our rightful place in the international community.”

SHIFT IN FOCUS

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. said there had been no official communication from Beijing on the tourism restrictions.

“It is not a secret that China would like us and the diplomatic friends of Taiwan to switch to them, but for Palau it is not our choosing to decide the one China policy,” he told Reuters in an interview in Palau’s second biggest city, Meyuns.

Remengesau, whose second and final term as president ends in January 2021, said Palau welcomed investment and tourism from China but the current administration’s principles and democratic ideals aligned more closely with Taiwan.

Palau was adapting to the China pullback by focusing on higher spending visitors rather than mass tourism, which had taken a toll on the environment, said Remengesau, dressed in a lemon colored shirt and white shell necklace.

One of Palau’s key tourist attractions, the saltwater Jellyfish Lake, was shut in 2017 after large numbers of swimmers were blamed for contributing to plummeting jellyfish numbers.

“The reality is that numbers did not mean big revenues for Palau. It actually made us more determined to seek the policy of quality versus quantity,” said Remengesau, who in 2015 declared most of Palau’s territorial waters a marine sanctuary the size of California.

CEMENTING INFLUENCE

Former Palau government officials say Beijing is trying to cement its influence in the region ahead of the expiry of the Compact Funding agreements between the United States, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau in 2023 and 2024.

The United States provides around $200 million a year on average to the Compact states and is responsible for the defense of the three countries, which each hold a seat at the United Nations.

Last December, the U.S. belatedly approved $124 million in assistance for Palau through till 2024, but has not announced any plans to extend the Compact agreements.

“The United States and China are not zero-sum competitors,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Reuters. “However, we have concerns about the sustainability of debt loads for countries highly indebted to China, as well as the environmental, social, or labor conditions that often come along with Chinese-financed projects.”

A June Security report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said Beijing’s increasing economic engagement in the Pacific was driven by its diplomatic and strategic priorities, including reducing Taiwan’s international presence, gaining access to natural resources and developing a blue water navy.

Former Micronesian government officials said Beijing also wants to extend its Belt and Road Initiative to Palau, and could provide an important source of investment once the Compact agreement expires.

“China is making overtures,” said former Palau President Johnson Toribiong. “We should be bringing in investors and that is a big factor in our Palau-Chinese relationship.”

Toribiong, who served until 2013, told Reuters Palau should not isolate itself.

“I like Taiwan. But even Taiwanese want China now. The businessmen, they also want China. They don’t care about political consequence. Think about the economics,” Toribiong said.

Palau receives $10 million annually from Taiwan, as well as education and medical scholarships.

Remengesau said Palau has not had any official talks with China for funding after the Compact expires but the government was discussing the issue internally.

CHINESE MONEY

China has quickly become one of the dominant economic players in the Pacific, spending billions of dollars in trade, investment, aid and tourism across Micronesia and the broader region.

China’s total goods trade with the Pacific Island Forum member countries reached $8.2 billion in 2017 versus $1.6 billion for the United States, according to the U.S. security report. Chinese concessional loans to Pacific islands have also risen sharply.

In contrast, Washington’s efforts to strengthen its position in Palau have been largely superficial, according to locals who cite examples of bigger U.S. flags on their official vehicles and increased public signage.

Chinese activity has slowed significantly, however.

Barabe, the resort owner, said Chinese investors had secured 99-year leases for around 60 hotel projects prior to 2017, but construction has been largely put on hold.

At a lush forest site leased by China’s Hanergy group, a rusting metal gate blocks the entrance with no sign of construction. Hanergy did not respond to requests for comment regarding the development.

At a nearby hilltop site overlooking the ocean and leased by another Chinese developer, the shell of a dilapidated mansion stands scrawled with graffiti.

Jackson M. Henry, a real estate appraiser in Koror who helps Chinese companies lease land from local clans, said he was trying to set up channels to aid Chinese investment into Palau ahead of the next election in 2020. Pro business candidate Surangel Whipps Jr. was an early favorite to win the vote.

Henry, whose previous roles included Palau’s ambassador to Taiwan and Chairman of Palau Visitors Authority, said Palau wanted to be friends with both Taiwan and China.

“They (Chinese clients) are looking towards the next administration to improve the relationship with mainland China.”

Reporting by Farah Master; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, Jessica Macy Yu and Yi-Mou Lee in TAIPEI and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON. Editing by Lincoln Feast.

Source: Reuters “Empty hotels, idle boats: What happens when a Pacific island upsets China”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China issues U.S. travel warning amid trade tensions


Reuters Staff July 3, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s embassy in Washington has issued a security advisory to Chinese nationals traveling to the United States, the latest such warning as trade tensions escalate between the two countries.

The embassy warned Chinese tourists to be aware of issues including expensive medical bills, the threats of public shootings and robberies, searches and seizures by customs agents, telecommunications fraud and natural disasters.

“Public security in the United States is not good. Cases of shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent,” the embassy said in the alert published on Thursday to its website.

“Travellers in the United States should be alert to their surroundings and suspicious individuals, and avoid going out alone at night.”

Aside from an additional warning about the risk of natural disasters, the advisory was similar to one the embassy posted in January.

Tensions are high between the two countries over the threat of tariffs.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is set to impose tariffs on $34 billion worth of additional goods from China on Friday citing unfair Chinese trade practices, and has threatened successive waves of duties on up to $450 billion in Chinese imports.

China has vowed to retaliate in kind with its own tariffs on U.S. agricultural products and other goods and to take more “qualitative” measures if Trump escalates the conflict.

China’s Foreign Ministry, when asked on Tuesday if the timing of the alert was politically motivated, said the summer was the high season for Chinese going to the United States and that Chinese embassies had an obligation to warn citizens about potential risks abroad.

“This kind of reminder from the Chinese embassy in the relevant country, I think this is absolutely a matter that is in the scope of our duty,” ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news briefing.

There was little mention of the latest embassy alert on Chinese social media.

China frequently issues travel warnings for Chinese abroad, generally in war-afflicted regions.

But some foreign governments have argued that Beijing uses other means, such as curtailing outbound tourism, to settle political or trade scores, though the Chinese government typically denies such issues are linked.

China banned all group tours to South Korea for part of 2017 in the wake of Seoul’s decision to install the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), which has a powerful radar Beijing worries can penetrate Chinese territory.

Reporting by Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie

Source: Reuters “China issues U.S. travel warning amid trade tensions”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Breakingviews – Chinese visitors can hit nerve tariffs don’t reach


John Foley April 6, 2018

NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – The fact that South Dakota’s official visitor website is available in Chinese speaks volumes about the links between the United States and the People’s Republic. Levies on Chinese TVs and microscopes, and U.S. soybeans and ginseng, threaten direct economic damage to both economies. But a reduction in the number of Chinese visitors to the United States, which has already begun, could hit a nerve that trade tariffs don’t reach.

President Donald Trump is intent on having a smaller trade deficit with China. Tourism, though, is one area where he can already claim a surplus. When a visitor buys a souvenir, grabs a burger in Trump Tower or parks a car at Mount Rushmore, that transaction is classed as an export. Chinese visitors spent $33 billion on U.S. travel, goods and services in 2016, according to official data, while Americans reciprocated with little more than $5 billion on their travels to the Middle Kingdom.

America’s $28 billion tourism surplus with China meaningfully reduces the overall trade deficit. The equivalent figure for United Kingdom tourism was less than $3 billion in 2016. The United States’ entire agricultural trade surplus was just $21 billion in 2017. The export value of U.S. soybeans – one of the products China is now punishing with its retaliatory trade tariffs – to every country in the world barely topped $22 billion.

Chinese tourist arrivals are forecast to reach 4.5 million by 2022 by the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office. Were they to spend just 10 percent per person more than they did in 2016, that would amount to almost $56 billion, all classed as exports. The additional spending would, all else being equal, knock 8 percent off Trump’s pesky trade deficit with China. Upsetting the tourism market further would work against that.

It will take more than trade tariffs to deter many of the Chinese tourists bent on visiting Saks Fifth Avenue or Amish Village in Pennsylvania. But it would be wrong to underestimate the potential for patriotic travel decisions. Chinese tourism to South Korea plunged when relations were frosty, while campaigns to boycott U.S. companies’ products in China are often successful. From Las Vegas to SeaWorld – whose biggest shareholder is Chinese – a dropoff in visitors from the People’s Republic would be felt quickly. When goods don’t cross borders, tourists may not either.

Source: Reuters “Breakingviews – Chinese visitors can hit nerve tariffs don’t reach”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Chinese President Xi Jinping Calling for “Toilet Revolution”


China’s public toilets have long been notorious for their unhygienic conditions. President Xi Jinping has decided that this needs to change, and is calling (in Chinese) for a “toilet revolution” (厕所革命 cèsuǒ gémìng).
• Xinhua says China’s top leader has “personally spoken out on this seemingly petty issue” because it affects rural development and tourism, and offers the opportunity for innovative sanitary products to be designed in China.
•The idea of a “toilet revolution” was first used in state media in 2015.

China has worried about its toilets for at least a decade:
•In 2006, Chinese internet users were outraged when a Taiwanese model who had built a career as a TV presenter in the mainland criticized Chinese public toilets for their dirty conditions and lack of doors.
•Before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the city announced plans to construct “64 four-star, 197 three-star and 118 one-star toilets at all its major tourist attractions.”
•In 2008, the People’s Daily also noted plans for an “electronic guidance system for public lavatories.”
•In 2012, Beijing city authorities issued a set of guidelines for public toilets that stipulated that each toilet should contain no more than two flies.
•When the “toilet revolution” first launched in 2015, a model public toilet equipped with a TV as well as vending and ATM machines was displayed in Beijing.
•In 2016, Beijing authorities said they would build 100 toilets with free Wi-Fi access.

Source: SubChina “The toilet revolution”

Note: This is SubChina’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Chinese tourists set another record in changing shopping in Japan


Chinese tourists carry suitcases packed with purchases during their bulk buying, also called as 'Bakugai' in central Tokyo, Japan. Photo: EPA

Chinese tourists carry suitcases packed with purchases during their bulk buying, also called as ‘Bakugai’ in central Tokyo, Japan. Photo: EPA

The spending power of Chinese tourists in Japan is so impressive there’s a special word for it: bakugai, or explosive buying.

While the soaring yen this year has threatened to curb their enthusiasm, the latest figures from the Japan National Tourism Organization show that 731,400 Chinese visitors flocked to the country in July, a monthly record.

What also emerges from a detailed look through tourism data is the growing importance of young women travellers, the popularity of Japanese cosmetics, and waning sales of electronic goods as the quality of Chinese-made products improves.

“Chinese consumers are starting to buy electronic goods domestically,“ said Yoko Hayano, a senior consultant at JTB Tourism Research & Consulting Co. in Tokyo.

The stronger yen and higher customs levies faced by Chinese tourists when they go home may reinforce this trend.

Also behind this shift in buying patterns is a large number of women travellers in their 20s and 30s, who accounted for more than 40 per cent of all Chinese tourists in the second quarter of this year, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

More than half of Chinese tourist come in on trips of four to six days and travel the so-called golden route that links Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyoto, and Osaka.

“It used to be the common notion among us Chinese that Japanese electronics are superior, but I think Chinese products are just fine nowadays,“ said Liu Yi, a 36-year old housewife from Hubei Province. “It’s Japanese cosmetics and health-care supplements that are very nice,” said Liu, as she lined up for opening time outside the Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district.

As incomes keep rising in China, Japan can count on its larger neighbour remaining the key to the health of its tourism industry.

Liu, who was on her first visit to Japan, travelled with her daughter and mother-in-law. If statistics are any guide, they may be back.

Source: SCMP “Chinese tourists set another record in changing shopping in Japan”

Note: This is SCMP’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China state shipping line to launch cruise route in disputed South China Sea


State-owned China COSCO Shipping Corp plans to launch cruise trips in the South China Sea next month, with the first route to travel from Sanya city in the country’s southeast to the disputed Paracel Islands, state media reported on Tuesday.

The Paracels, known as the Xisha Islands in Chinese, are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

“It is practical to stimulate the local economy through development of tourism, logistics and infrastructure facilities,” the China Daily newspaper quoted the company’s chairman Xu Lirong as saying at a conference over the weekend.

In April, China’s largest shipping company signed a contract with China National Travel Service Group Corp and China Communications Construction Co Ltd to establish a cruise company to offer tourism services in the South China Sea.

In a statement sent to Reuters, China COSCO Shipping said developing tourism services in the South China Sea was part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy and the responsibility of its state enterprises.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the sea, through which passes about $5 trillion of trade a year.

A growing number of skirmishes have taken place amid rising regional tensions over China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, the latest last week when an Indonesian naval vessel fired on a Chinese fishing boat near the Natuna Islands.

The inaugural COSCO route to the Xisha Islands will be followed by the development of other routes in the South China Sea and Taiwan Straits, with a gradual expansion to international routes, in a bid to build China’s first national cruise brand, the company said.

Countries competing to cement their rival claims have encouraged a growing civilian presence on disputed islands in the South China Sea. The first cruises from China to the Paracel islands were launched by Hainan Strait Shipping Co in 2013.

Beijing has said it wants to build Maldives-style resorts around the South China Sea.

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: Reuters “China state shipping line to launch cruise route in disputed South China Sea”