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Here’s Why China Cut Off Travel Permits for Tourists Going to Taiwan

Suspending the travel permits lets China remind Taiwan of its economic clout, some analysts say

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Chinese tourists would get close to Taiwan's political heat. Wikimedia Commons

China’s decision last week to stop issuing permits for independent tourists to Taiwan applies new economic pressure to their already strained relations, and analysts see three underlying reasons behind Beijing’s move.

Beijing’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism cited the “current mainland China-Taiwan relations” as cause to stop permitting indie travelers after about a decade. China regards self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory rather than a state, but Taiwan prefers at least today’s level autonomy over the Chinese goal of unification. That schism has caused the two sides to chafe for 70 years.

Here are three reasons China cut off travel permits:

Taiwan’s president opposes China despite earlier pressure to get along.

Suspending the travel permits lets China remind Taiwan of its economic clout, some analysts say.

The permit shutdown ends a process that generated on average more than 82,000 arrivals per month last year, which boosted the island’s service economy.

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Despite the military and diplomatic pressure, the government in Taipei openly opposes rule by China. VOA

Since 2016, China has flown military aircraft near Taiwan and persuaded five Taiwanese diplomatic allies to switch their allegiance from Taipei to Beijing. The Communist leadership hopes to pressure Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to bargain with China as her predecessor did — on the condition that acknowledges both sides are considered part of the same country.

Despite the military and diplomatic pressure, the government in Taipei openly opposes rule by China. Tsai in January condemned the “one country, two systems” idea that Chinese President Xi Jinping had proposed then as a way to rule Taiwan.

China is “more than furious” that Tsai openly backs anti-Beijing protesters who have taken to the streets in Hong Kong since June, said Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York.

China upped its warnings by calling off Taiwan-bound independent travel, said Liang Kuo-yuan, president of the Taipei research organization Polaris Research Institute. “The headline news will create some psychological effects,” Liang said. “I believe their motivation should be that mainland China wants to say ‘as well as using military threats we can also hold you back economically.’”

china, tourists, taiwan
Suspending the travel permits lets China remind Taiwan of its economic clout, some analysts say. Wikimedia Commons

Taiwan’s president faces a tough reelection bid in 2020. China hopes the tourism suspension will remind Taiwanese that “there are riches to be had” if they reject Tsai’s reelection bid in January, King said.

Tsai is running against Han Kuo-yu, a mayor who supports opening talks with China to bolster economic and investment ties. His party, when in power from 2008 to 2016, accepted Beijing’s condition that each side see itself as part of China for negotiation purposes. The two governments inked 23 deals.

Tsai rejects the one-China condition, and China cut off talks after she took office. China hopes the cut in travel permits will addle the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said Yun Sun, East Asia Program senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank in Washington.

Hotels near tourist hotspots will take the biggest hit from the loss of self-guided tourists, though many had expected business to taper due to the decline in political relations, said Peter Lin, chief executive officer of the Topology Travel Agency in Taipei. Losses from the travel suspension are estimated at about $1 billion per year.

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Independent travel permits had been suspended because of increasing “risks” for travelers before the election. Wikimedia Commons

“The Chinese do want to show that DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] is not doing good things and want to punish the DPP,” Sun said. “They want to squeeze the election, and tourism is a very convenient channel. The tourism industry in Taiwan will be hit pretty hard.”

Chinese tourists would get close to Taiwan’s political heat. China’s official television network said on its Weibo social media website Wednesday that independent travel permits had been suspended because of increasing “risks” for travelers before the election.

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Beijing frets about its tourists being drawn to Taiwan’s democratic institutions including its unfettered mass media, King said. Relations with China are shaping up as a core presidential campaign issue with daily media coverage.

“There’s the incidental bonus for Beijing of having fewer of its citizens exposed to the island’s vigorously open political culture,” King said. “This fact cannot be overlooked, especially given the protests in Hong Kong, uncensored coverage of which mainland visitors get to see on their Taiwan hotel television screens.” (VOA)

Next Story

Can Huawei’s HarmonyOS be Successful Outside China?

Can Huawei pull off its HarmonyOS outside China?

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A possible alternative to Android and iOS is finally here -- in Huawei HarmonyOS. Pixabay

Over the last decade, the smartphone operating system (OS) business has become a duopoly. Either you have Apples iPhones running on iOS or a device powered by Googles Android.

A possible alternative to Android and iOS is finally here — in Huawei HarmonyOS. Can it win the love of consumers who are on Android or iOS for years? According to Neil Shah, Research Director at Counterpoint Research, it won’t be easy for Huawei to break the duopoly of Apple and Google. Beyond China, there are two key challenges for Harmony OS in the global market.

“Firstly, to attract global developers to optimize apps for HarmonyOS and integrate other monetization options via Harmony software development kit (SDKs) at scale. This is something other OS providers were not able to do — for example Microsoft with Windows Phone,” Shah told IANS.

“Secondly, from a smartphones perspective, it is not fully complete until HarmonyOS features quality, diverse apps, AI, services, user-experience, support for multiple technologies, and ad platform integration, with respect to Android Google Mobile Services (GMS),” he explained.

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Developing an ecosystem of partners and developers to create applications and services for a platform is hard. Pixabay

Building and maintaining app stores in each country along with localization options, developer support, GDPR guidelines and security scanning, all with huge overheads, is a massive undertaking. “Further, issuing regular security patches and software updates, while the platform is open to millions of disparate devices, will be resource-intensive and costly,” said Shah.

Working with different global operators is going to be another challenge if the value is just captured by Huawei or close partners. At some point, to maintain openness and scale, Huawei will have to spin off HarmonyOS into a separate entity to drive the growth of the platform. According to Julie Ask, Vice President and Principal Analyst, eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals at Forrester, it’s a smart and long-overdue move by Huawei.

“The owner of the operating systems on smartphones (and a host of other devices) has far more market power than simply hardware manufacturers. Fundamentally, it’s a window or data and insights on every user of that phone – even if just under the pretense of collecting data to improve the product in the long term,” Ask told IANS. The open question is: Can Huawei pull it off?

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Necessity is the mother of invention applies well to Huawei. Pixabay

“Samsung has tried. Nokia (and employees of Nokia) tried. Developing an ecosystem of partners and developers to create applications and services for a platform is hard. While hard, Huawei has the advantages of a large home marketing (China) plus some financial freedom to pursue a large – and what could be long-term strategic initiative like this,” she elaborated. Could the HarmonyOS be a threat to other OS developed by the US companies like Google?

“In China, yes. Because China has a unique digital ecosystem that foreign Internet companies like Google don’t have the advantages to adapt to it very well,” said Xiaofeng Wang, Senior Analyst at Forrester.

Being a local Chinese company/brand, it would be easier for Huawei/HarmonyOS to build a well-rounded mobile ecosystem given its familiarity of the digital ecosystem there and the large scale of Huawei’s mobile phone penetration. “Plus, Chinese consumers are growing preferences on home-grown brands; and Chinese brands are doing better in marketing and engaging with Chinese consumers,” Wang told IANS.

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Shah added: “Necessity is the mother of invention applies well to Huawei, though it will have to remain inventive and prudent on how to scale outside China if forced to, and make sure it has everything in place it is in harmony with the industry and consumers.” The Chinese conglomerate has indicated that it won’t be migrating to HarmonyOS for smartphones, unless it is completely cut-off from Google Android’s access outside China.

When the time is right, and Huawei has more developers working on HarmonyOS, they might take full advantage of the scalability of the micro-kernel architecture the OS provides. (IANS)