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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

This AI System Can Evade Censorship In India, China and Kazakhstan

Researchers develop an AI tool that evades censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan

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(AI)-based system automatically learns to evade censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan. Pixabay

Researchers have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based system that automatically learns to evade censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan.

The tool, called Geneva (short for Genetic Evasion), found dozens of ways to circumvent censorship by exploiting gaps in censors’ logic and finding bugs that the researchers said would have been virtually impossible for humans to find manually.

The researchers are scheduled to introduce Geneva during a peer-reviewed talk at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 26th Conference on Computer and Communications Security in London on Thursday.

“With Geneva, we are, for the first time, at a major advantage in the censorship arms race,” said Dave Levin, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maryland in the US and senior author of the paper.

“Geneva represents the first step toward a whole new arms race in which artificial intelligence systems of censors and evaders compete with one another. Ultimately, winning this race means bringing free speech and open communication to millions of users around the world who currently don’t have them,” Levin said.\

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This AI system that evades censorship is called ‘Geneva’. Pixabay

To demonstrate that Geneva worked in the real world against undiscovered censorship strategies, the team ran Geneva on a computer in China with an unmodified Google Chrome browser installed.

By deploying strategies identified by Geneva, the user was able to browse free of keyword censorship.

The researchers also successfully evaded censorship in India, which blocks forbidden URLs, and Kazakhstan, which was eavesdropping on certain social media sites at the time, said a statement from the University of Maryland.

All information on the Internet is broken into data packets by the sender’s computer and reassembled by the receiving computer.

One prevalent form of Internet censorship works by monitoring the data packets sent during an Internet search.

The censor blocks requests that either contain flagged keywords (such as “Tiananmen Square” in China) or prohibited domain names (such as “Wikipedia” in many countries).

When Geneva is running on a computer that is sending out web requests through a censor, it modifies how data is broken up and sent, so that the censor does not recognise forbidden content or is unable to censor the connection.

Known as a genetic algorithm, Geneva is a biologically inspired type of AI that Levin and his team developed to work in the background as a user browses the web from a standard Internet browser.

Like biological systems, Geneva forms sets of instructions from genetic building blocks. But rather than using DNA as building blocks, Geneva uses small pieces of code.

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By deploying strategies identified by Geneva, the user is able to browse free of keyword censorship. Pixabay

Individually, the bits of code do very little, but when composed into instructions, they can perform sophisticated evasion strategies for breaking up, arranging or sending data packets.

The tool evolves its genetic code through successive attempts (or generations). With each generation, Geneva keeps the instructions that work best at evading censorship and kicks out the rest.

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Geneva mutates and cross breeds its strategies by randomly removing instructions, adding new instructions, or combining successful instructions and testing the strategy again.

Through this evolutionary process, Geneva is able to identify multiple evasion strategies very quickly, said the study. (IANS)