by Larry Yu, PH.D. (Larry Yu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management at the School of business and Public Management, The George Washington University, Washington DC, USA)
This article analyzes the relationship of politics and tourism between the two politically divided states: mainland China and Taiwan. It examines tourism as a low-politics activity in influencing initial reconciliation between the two peoples and governments and discusses the current travel flows across the Taiwan Straits after the handover of Hong Kong to Mainland China. It is found that the travel development between China and Taiwan supports the revolutionary process model developed by Butler and Mao. Many obstacles remain in the development of tourism and travel between Taiwan and the mainland is greatly influenced by the changing political relations of the two governments.
|Tourism as Low - Politics Activity |
The Division of the Mainland and Taiwan
China and Taiwan have been politically separated since the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists in the 1940s. After almost forty years of separation, travel from Taiwan to the mainland was first permitted in 1987 and later, selected mainland residents were permitted to visit Taiwan. Since then travel between the Taiwan Straits has been strictly controlled by both governments and the contact between the two peoples through travel has made noticeable impact on the initial reconciliation and tension reduction at the low politics level - that is the people-to-people contact at local level which makes lesser and indirect impact on policy makers. However, this positive political development as attributed to increased travel exchanges between the two peoples suffered severe setback in 1994 when 24 Taiwan visitors were murdered at Qian Dao Lake in China and political tension renewed between the two governments over Taiwan's democratic presidential election campaign and independence movement. Tourist arrivals from Taiwan rebounded in the ensuing year, but tension at high-politics level which involves top policy makers in dealing with strategic and security issues remains. This article attempts to analyze the relationship of politics and tourism between the two politically divided states. It examines tourism as a low-politics activity in influencing initial reconciliation between the two peoples and governments, and discusses the current travel flows between the Taiwan Straits as impacted by the handover of Hong Kong to mainland China.
Tourism is recognized as a major force for influencing political policies, international relations and world peace (Matthews, 1975; Richter, 1989; Edgell, 1990; Hall, 1994). On one hand, tourism can be used as people-to-people diplomacy to promote better understanding and friendship among different peoples. In this seminal work Tourism - A Vital Force for Peace (D'Amore and Jafari, 1988), international tourism is considered as a catalytic force for reducing political tension and promoting world peace. On the other hand, government can use tourism as a political leverage to either promote tourism with friendly countries or restrict tourism with hostile countries (Richter, 1989). Tourism has therefore significant political implications in world politics and international relations.
In international relations, there are generally two levels of political interaction between countries: high politics and low politics. High politics are those issues of primary importance to top decision makers, and low politics are those issues of lesser importance related to lessor levels of authority (Spero, 1981). Political, military, strategic and intelligence issues at the national, regional and international levels are defined as high politics because they have direct impact on the security and stability of a country or a region (Spero, 1981). Activities at the local level and the contact between ordinary people are considered low politics because such activities make lesser impact on policy makers. Low politics therefore do not touch on the sensitive aspects of high politics, such as national security and military intelligence, and remain on the periphery of the political relations between two countries (Zhan, 1993).
Zhan (1993) argues, however, that though high politics and low politics are of importance to different levels of political authorities, they need to be further defined by the matters they influence, political interaction and decision making. He defines high politics as "those activities between or among either government or non-government actors that manifest direct, major, and usually immediate impact on national, regional and international affairs" and low politics as "activities that impact indirectly on national, regional, and international affairs" (Zhan, 1993:61). The maintenance of peace between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization is an example of high politics activity because of the direct and immediate impact on the two nations and their neighbors in the region. On the other hand, tourism provides an opportunity to meet people in the host country and the contact between tourists and the local people, though superficial most of the time, can enable the tourists and the hosts to better understand each other. Such understanding can further strengthen the tourists' appreciation of the host way of life. The mutual understanding can thus lead to improved relationship between the two peoples and governments. This people-to-people diplomacy through tourism is generally described as a low-politics activity because the relations of two countries are influenced in an indirect and incremental way.
Tourism Between Politically Divided States
The world has witnessed dramatic changes in political geography and international relations in the past decade. Some formally divided states were unified and integrated politically, such as Vietnam and Germany while other countries were disintegrated such as USSR and Yugoslavia. At present, China and Taiwan, North and South Korea remain politically divided. These politically divided states are defined by Butler and Mao as quasi-state, "a currently separate political unit, once part of a large unit, subdivided by internal (religion, ethnic origin, etc.) or external (colonization/decolonization, occupation, war, etc.) forces" (1995:94). Due to political differences, travel is restricted between the divided states. The ban on travel between China and Taiwan via a third country was lifted in 1987, and travel between South and North Korea is still prohibited.
Tourism as a potential low-politics activity for influencing political interaction between the two Koreas was first recognized by Kim and Crompton (1990), who demonstrated that tourism is a vehicle for implementing people-to-people diplomacy in the context of Korea and that tourism can play a significant role in political integration of the Koreas. The study recommended useful development strategies for promoting such tourism and for setting a precedent for other politically divided states. However, tourism between South and North Korea is at present still in zero-tourism stage (Butler and Mao, 1996). The recommendations can only be put into practice when political tension between the two Koreas is reduced.
Two recent revealing articles by Butler and Mao (1995, 1996) shed some light on tourism between politically divided states. The first article analyzed tourism between several pairs of the divided states and raised an important question regarding how to define the tourists traveling between these politically divided states. The dynamics of such tourism are demonstrated and different tourist travel motivations are identified for traveling between politically divided states and conventional international tourists. Most tourists traveling between politically divided states are motivated by kinship and cultural ties, with a few visitors seeking pleasure and recreational activities (Butler and Mao, 1995:110). This study pointed out the need for defining and classifying those who travel between the politically divided states, and attempted to develop a conceptual model to explain this flow of tourism.
The second article presented a refined conceptual discussion on travel motivations and classification of tourism between politically divided states. This study attributed the frequently changing travel patterns of tourists between politically divided states to the constantly changing nature of political relations. Such evolutionary process of travel patterns is identified as
- zero-tourism stage;
- VFR (visit friends and relatives) tourist stage;
- middle stage; and
- mature stage (Butler and Mao, 1996:30).
- normalized intergovernment relations;
- unofficial relations;
- no relation;
- absence of restrictions;
- one-sided restriction;
- two-sided restrictions (Butler and Mao, 1996:31).
This study attempts to analyze tourism as a low-politics activity in influencing initial reconciliation between the two peoples, and to apply the conceptualization of tourism evolutionary process by Butler and Mao to travel patterns between China and Taiwan. The evolution of the political division between the mainland and Taiwan is discussed and the travel patterns across the Taiwan Straits are analyzed. Travel accessibility as controlled by the government is chronologically documented and presented. It examines the impact on cross Strait travel by the handover of Hong Kong to mainland China. The obstacles to future direct travel by air and sea between the mainland and Taiwan are identified and discussed.
The separation of a formally single and large political entity into two political units can be caused by either external or internal forces. External pressures, such as regional and world wars, colonization and decolonization, and intervention by foreign powers could result in the division of a single large political unit, for example, South and North Vietnam (Mare, 1991), and South and North Korea (Totten and Jo, 1991; Han, 1991; Lee, 1995). The separation could also be caused by internal factors such as civil war or religious, ethnic and political ideological conflicts; for example, India and Pakistan, and China and Taiwan (Chiu, 1991; Chao, 1995).
The division between China and Taiwan was caused by political ideological conflict between the Nationalists and the Communists. The civil war between Chiang Kai-Shek's nationalist party, the Kuomintang (KMT), and Mao Zedong's Communist Party lasted from 1927 to 1949, with only a brief united front in the war against Japan in the 1930s. This bloody conflict resulted in the defeat of Chiang KaiShek's forces on the mainland and their subsequent withdrawal to Taiwan, where they hoped to regroup and counterattack. On May 20, 1949, the Emergency Decree - a law to punish communists - was declared by the Kuomintang on Taiwan and many other islands in the Taiwan Straits (Wakabayashi, 1995). The founding of the people's Republic of China in Beijing on October 1, 1949, marked the end of the civil war and the beginning of the political separation, hostility and hatred.
During the past 48 years, from 1949 to 1997, the political relations between the mainland and Taiwan have gone through four major stages:
- military confrontation, 1949-1978;
- initial conciliation, 1979-1987;
- low politics activity, 1987-1993;
- current period, 1994-present.
Military Confrontation 1949-1978
The military confrontation period was characterized by the determination on both sides to take over each other by military force. Beijing vowed to "liberate Taiwan" and Taipei was determined to "retake the mainland." Both sides set priorities to take each other over by force and such intense military confrontation resulted in many major battles. However, neither side was able to accomplish its objective due to the outbreak of the Korean War and the United States' intervention. The hostile military confrontation subsided after 1955, when China began to pursue a dual policy toward Taiwan: maintaining military options but seeking peaceful solutions for unification. Peaceful negotiations for solving the political differences between the two sides were first suggested by Premier Zhou Enlai when he received a group of news reporters from Indonesia on June 2, 1955 (Chen and Hsieh, 1993:109), but this proposal was rejected by the Kuomintang government. Since then the military confrontation has continued and such seesaw military confrontation lasted until 1978. Obviously, this period was a zero-tourism period and no political relation between the two governments occurred.
Initial Conciliation 1979-1987
The initial conciliation began in January 1979 with the passing away of the hard-line communist leaders such as Chairman Mao Zedong and Marshall Zhu De, Chinese leaders slowly but firmly broke away from Mao's way of thinking. By late 1978, China decided to give up the goal of liberating Taiwan by force and began to search seriously for a peaceful reunification. This marked a fundamental policy change by the mainland government towards political relations with Taiwan.
The policy change was also greatly influenced by the normalization of Sino-US relations on January 1, 1979. By recognizing Beijing as the sole official representative of China, the United States stopped its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan and withdrew its military presence from Taiwan. The normalization of relations between China and the United States thus removed a major obstacle to possible political reconciliation.
Beginning on New Year's Day of 1979, China launched an all-out campaign for peaceful unification between the mainland and Taiwan. Chinese communist government leaders and noted scholars discussed widely the concept of peaceful negotiations for unification. All of these discussions led to the "One Country Two Systems" concept proposed by Deng Xiaoping.
On the other hand, a much more moderate approach toward the mainland was pursued by the Kuomintang government. The Kuomintang gradually lifted its restrictions against discussing the issue of unification with the mainland. Indirect mail from the mainland to Taiwan via Hong Kong was permitted. Bv the end of 1982, it was estimated that more than 1,700 pieces of mail from the mainland had reached Taiwan via the Red Cross Society in Hong Kong (Chen and Hsieh, 1993:253) Scholars, athletes, artists and sailors from the two sides often met in a third country. Many people from Taiwan quietly visited the mainland through a third country and the mainland border control authority did not stamp their passports when they entered or exited the mainland.
Indirect trade between the two sides through Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore grew rapidly. By 1985, indirect trade between the mainland and Taiwan was estimated at $1.1 billion, doubled that of 1984. In the same year, the mainland became the fourth largest trading partner for Taiwan (Chi, 1995) and indirect exports from Taiwan to the mainland totaled $987 million (Chen and Hsieh, 1993:273).
This period was still characterized as zero-tourism stage although some Taiwan visitors quietly visited the mainland through a third country. Most contact between the two peoples were made indirectly in a third country. Indirect contact between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits continued to increase in 1986. A powerful momentum was building in Taiwan for the immediate opening of travel to the mainland. This movement led to the low politics activities of travel, business and cultural exchanges.
Travel as Low-Politics Activity 1987-1993
This period began with Taiwan's decision to lift its ban on travel to the mainland in October, 1987. This decision was forced by the people, particularly the veteran soldiers who left the mainland in the late 1940s. In 1949, Taiwan absorbed more than a million and a half people from the mainland. Of these approximately half a million were in the armed forces (Copper, 1990:27). After the Korean War in 1953, about 10,000 prisoners of war from the Chinese communist army were sent to join the Taiwan military forces. These veteran soldiers had been separated from their families on the mainland for three decades. By the 1980s, they were in their 60s and 70s and strongly demanded permission to visit their families on the mainland. The veterans organized large gatherings and demonstrations to express their strong longing for their homeland and families. The most moving scene in their demonstrations was the shirts they all wore, upon which were written in big Chinese characters "homesick" (Hoon, 1988). Their efforts were soon supported by people who moved to Taiwan 38 years previously following the establishment of the People's Republic of China.
On October 14, 1987, admitting the fact that indirect travel from Taiwan to the mainland already existed, the Kuomintang decided to permit certain categories of its citizens to go to the mainland for the purpose of visiting families (Chen and Hsieh, 1993:288). Leisure and recreational travel was still prohibited. This initial policy restricted certain levels of government officials and military personnel from visiting the mainland. The length of stay was limited to one trip per year and three months per trip (Hoon, 1988). The travel permit had to be obtained through the Taiwan Red Cross Society. Direct business contact between Taiwan and the mainland travel agencies was strictly prohibited. Permission for travel to the mainland could be obtained through Chinese embassies in various countries and could also be arranged by the China Travel Services (CTS) in Hong Kong (Zhang, 1993). On November 2, 1987, the Red Cross Society in Taiwan officially began to accept travel applications; 13M applications were received on the very first day. Travel to visit families on the mainland marked the beginning of people-to-people contact between the two sides after 38 years of separation and hostility.
This period was characterized by increased flow of Taiwan visitors to the Mainland for visiting families and relatives. Travel accessibility could be described as unofficial relations since there was no direct contact between the two governments at the high-politics level. Travel as low-politics activity made indirect impact on the initial reconciliation between the two peoples and governments in this period of time.
To pave the road for legalized travel to the mainland through a third country, Taiwan abolished the 38-year-old Emergency Decree on July 15, 1987. When the Kuomintang lifted the ban and allowed veteran soldiers and retired people to visit the mainland, "mainland fever" swept the whole Taiwan society. A "domino effect" soon developed. People of different professions demand the right to visit the mainland, which forced the Kuomintang government to gradually relax its policy. Figure 1 describes Kuomintang's gradual policy changes on travel between the mainland and Taiwan from 1987 to 1997.
Figure 1 clearly illustrates the relaxation of Taiwan's travel policy for both its own citizens and people on the mainland. The permission for travel to the mainland began with the veteran soldiers and retired civil servants and teachers. The policy then included civilians, low-level government employees, family members of armed forces personnel, Kuomintang Party members, middle-level government functionaries, and military personnel with little access to state secrets and military intelligence. Finally, the policy allowed Kuomintang Party Central Committee members and congressmen to visit the mainland.
The policy for mainlanders visiting Taiwan also experienced a gradual door opening. In just two years, travel across the Taiwan Straits has gone so far that it was essentially irresistible and irrevocable. The increased travel served as a low-politics activity and promoted close contact, mutual understanding and business opportunities between the two peoples (Huang, 1993; Chi, 1995).
Figure 2 shows the total arrivals of visitors from Taiwan to the mainland. The growth from 1987 to 1993 was evident from Figure 2 and the decline of Taiwan visitors to the mainland in 1994 will be discussed in the next section. As the people-to-people contacts continued to increase through travel, two semiofficial, meditative organizations were established on each side to handle any legal disputes between the two peoples: the Taiwan Straits Exchange Foundation which was established in Taiwan on November 21, 1990, and the Association for Relations Across the Straits established on the mainland on December 16, 1~. Though the directives of both organizations are to deal only with people-to-people relations at the low-politics level, including such issues as travel, commerce, immigration, and intellectual rights disputes, these organizations clearly represented both governments in an indirect way.
The height of the low-politics activity in this period was reached in April, 1993 when the meeting between the leaders of the two semi-official organizations was held in Singapore. Known as the Wang-Koo Talks, this meeting was the first high-level meeting between the two sides and it focused on economic issues, science and technology and cultural exchange between the two sides. An agreement was signed concerning regular contacts between the two organizations, notary procedures and cooperation for lost registered mail between the mainland and Taiwan (Chen, 1993:31). This meeting was an indication of initial reconciliation and limited cooperation between the mainland and Taiwan.
As shown in Figure 2, travel from Taiwan to the mainland suffered a setback in 1994 and the consequences, to a great extent, jeopardized the initial reconciliation between the sides. In March, 1994, 24 tourists from Taiwan and eight Chinese crew members and tour guides were robbed and killed during a cruise tour on the Qiandao Lake (Thousand-Island Lake) in Zhejiang Province in eastern China (Mark, 1994). Following this disaster the Taiwanese government temporarily halted group tour travel to China, as well as other types of cultural exchanges and business activities with the mainland. As a result, Taiwanese tourist arrivals to China suffered an nine percent decrease in 1994 compared to the previous year. This was a major decline of tourist arrivals from Taiwan to the mainland since travel was permitted in 1987.
This tragedy revealed a critical travel safety issue and Taiwan tourists were warned about the "highly dangerous" tourist destinations in China (Economic Daily News, 1994). The Taiwan government was dissatisfied with the way the mainland government handled the Qiandao Lake boating tragedy. The relations of the two governments, as a result, was further strained. Then, a series of political events, President Lee Teng-hui's visit to the U.S. in June, 1995 and the democratic presidential election in Taiwan in March, 1996, angered the Chinese government. The relations between the two sides deteriorated sharply at the high politics level. As a result, the previously scheduled second-round Wang-Koo Talk was indefinitely postponed.
However, at the low-politics level, travel from Taiwan to the mainland rebounded by ten percent in 1995 and continued to increase in 1996. After Taiwan's presidential election in March, 1996, tension began to subside slowly. Fifty Taiwan academics resumed their postponed trip to Beijing in July, 1996. By late July, 1996, governors and mayor were permitted to attend cultural activities and international conference in China. At the same, senior officials from mainland Fujian Province and Chairman Yin Wenlong of state-owned Air China were permitted to visit Taiwan (Asiaweek, July, 1996).
This period was distinguished as the middle stage of tourism development between Taiwan and the mainland since leisure, business and professional exchange travel were the major travel motivations. Taiwan tourism has become a major component of China's tourism industry. Taiwan tourists contributed 19 percent of China's total tourist receipts in 1995 (Figure 3). Travel accessibility was temporarily restricted by the Taiwan government - one side restriction. After the boycott of group travel to the mainland was lifted in 1994, the travel accessibility issue may be described as non-official relations.
Hong Kong has been a major transit city for travel between Taiwan and the mainland before it was reverted to mainland China on July 1, 1997. Hong Kong has been the top destination for Taiwan outbound tourists in the 1990s. In 1995, 37 percent Taiwan outbound tourists visited Hong Kong. Now Hong Kong is returned to China as a Special Administrative Region, travel between Taiwan and mainland China continues to go through Hong Kong. It is believed that Hong Kong will continue to be an indispensable intermediary in cross-Straits relations. Taiwan offices and personnel stayed on in Hong Kong after the handover. Both sides neither restricted civilian exchanges and nor banned air and shipping links between Taiwan and Hong Kong. In fact, both sides strengthened cooperation in air travel by signing an air accord on passenger ticketing and transfer in Hong Kong. In the past, passengers traveling between Taiwan and mainland China had to wait for confirmation of their seats when they changed planes in Hong Kong or Macao. Now, they are able to obtain the necessary boarding pass for transfer earlier and no longer have to wait for confirmation of their seats when they make transfer in Hong Kong or Macao (China News, July, 1997).
The Taiwan government has however restricted armed forces personnel and police from traveling to Hong Kong for sightseeing. Application for attending conferences in Hong Kong will be approved on a case by case basis. But, it is clear that Hong Kong will continue to act as the conduit for leisure, business travel and cultural exchanges between the two peoples at the low-politics level.
Tourism between politically divided states can be used both as a political leverage and conciliation at low-politics level. The development of tourism between the mainland and Taiwan has demonstrated a distinctive pattern of evolution and is sensitive to disruptions in relations at high-politics level. Separated since 1949, mainland China and Taiwan did not permit any contact between their peoples for more than three decades. The evolution of relations between the two sides included four major periods in which tension was gradually reduced and contact was initiated through travel, and then tension was increased in the last few years due to political differences. The evolution of tourism between the two sides went through zero-tourism stage, VFR-tourist stage and has reached the middle stage (Figure 4).
Visiting families on the mainland was stimulated by "mainland fever," started by the veteran soldiers who were separated from their families for three decades. The relaxation of travel policy concerning Taiwan citizens visiting the mainland demonstrated the "domino effect" that swept all of Taiwan society. Later, residents from the mainland were permitted to visit families and relatives in Taiwan or for exchange purpose.
The middle stage of tourism development was reached when leisure traveL business travel and various forms of exchange tours between the two sides were dramatically increased. The increased contact of the two peoples generated through travel has had a profound impact on the mutual understanding and relations on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. The increased travel volume prompted the establishment of semiofficial organizations on both sides to handle travel and business related issues and disputes. This is a clear indication of initial reconciliation and limited cooperation between the two governments in an indirect way.
However, during this middle stage of tourism development, travel from Taiwan to the mainland suffered a temporary setback as a result of the tragedy on the Qiandao Lake and the increased political tension between the two governments concerning democracy and independence issues in Taiwan. Many obstacles remain in the path of tourism development between the mainland and Taiwan. Although direct link for shipping was open in March 1997, direct links for air travel is still prohibited and tourists have to change planes in Hong Kong and Macao, or another third country.
In this study, tourism as a low-politics activity has helped to ameliorate the tension and hostility between the two peoples in initial reconciliation. Travel between Taiwan and the mainland is greatly influenced by the changing political relations of the two governments. Many obstacles remain in the development of tourism and political relations between the two politically divided states. However, the increased tide of the travel across the Taiwan Straits would be difficult to reverse.
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