Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hong Kong's Effect on Taiwan is major media moment

A hiking trail

Cindy Sui of the BBC sent around a piece today on the effect of the Hong Kong protests on Taiwan's desire to annex itself to China. It's mostly good, and its the first major media piece I've seen that refers to the ghostly deadlines of 2021 and 2049 for annexation of Taiwan that some in the Chinese media have talked about.

As several of us have been remarking recently, one ironic effect of the Hong Kong protests is that everyone is now noticing Taiwan. Yay! Normally the international media hedges when it talks about Taiwan's rejection of annexation speaking of "some people" dislike that, or referring to "skepticism" or "wariness". But perhaps we're going to see more forthright acknowledgement in the major media that Taiwan doesn't want to become part of China. One can only hope.

Ben Goren has a long discussion of the BBC piece here, with many criticisms, which I won't repeat. Ben observes:
Then there’s this beauty:

Thousands of Chinese tourists flood into Taiwan daily, boosting the island’s economy.
I don’t have a problem with the object of this sentence, only the entire predicate. Perhaps Cindy Sui can point to some hard statistical evidence that Chinese tourists are actually boosting Taiwan’s economy and if so, which sectors / areas in particular. If she can’t then really all she’s doing here is repeating Government propaganda.
The problem is an interesting one because there are many ways to think about how to measure the economic effect of Chinese tourists and it would not be easy for anyone to produce a definitive account. This paper argues for a net US dollar gain of nearly $50 million a month from Chinese tourism after allowing for the "crowding out" effect of reducing US and Japanese tourist arrivals, partly because it appears to increase tourism from Hong Kong, but the data are too old and limited to be useful (2009 data). I'd be curious to see a more recent in-depth model. I suppose nearly $600 million annually is technically "boosting" the economy. This 2014 paper views Chinese tourism from another POV -- its economic effect on the environment:
When forecasting the estimated growth of Chinese visitors in Taiwan to 2016, an additional 0.8% increase in economic output is expected at the expense of a 2.7% increase in CO2 emissions and a 3.0% increase in water use.
Another paper from 2013...
It is concluded that by 2011, the economic spillover effects for the retail sector and accommodations services sector were US$773.49 million and US$438.43 million, respectively. The total spillover effects of US$7617 million accounted for 0.183% of Taiwan's GDP
I don't think there is any question we're getting a "boost" from Chinese tourism, if only because the word "boost" has no real meaning, though none of the models attempt to measure the costs, except the one that looks at the environment. I also don't think there's any question that it is not a boost we want: Chinese tourism produces nothing that raises long-term living standards in Taiwan. This pointless flow of revenues (profits go largely to a few Hong Kong tourism firms) might even be tolerable, if it were not part of a strategy to annex Taiwan to China.

Sui writes, referring to the Sunflower Protesters (her reporting on them was excellent, example) and their demand for a bill to provide oversight of cross-strait agreements:
They might just succeed. The activists enjoyed nearly 50% public support for their demands for greater scrutiny of government deals with China, according to a government survey, partly because - unlike Hong Kong - they did not disrupt traffic.
Actually, "nearly 50% support" seems wrong. Rather, it was strong majority support. For example, Ben writes on a pro-KMT TVBS poll that has 65% supporting passage of a bill to oversee agreements with China, including a plurality against the trade pact. Another TVBS poll showed over 60% wanted the services pact withdrawn, numbers similar to those in this Businessweek poll. That the government has not attempted to ram the bill through again clearly indicates its deep unpopularity, both with the public at large and within the KMT. The students had broad public support because the service pact was a crapshit agreement that was bad for Taiwan and rejected by the public. If only someone in the media would clearly say that....

PS: if you're interested in the meaty contents of the oversight bill, the always-excellent Frozen Garlic has a great post on it.
PPS: In fairness, a government poll found the public supported the services pact, by 1%, 41-40. Those results surely required real artistry to achieve.
PPPS: What's the boost from the services pact? I looked at it here. You'll need a microscope to see it.
Daily Links:
  • New ROC stamps honor endangered species. Test your ROC understanding: which stamp has higher value, Formosan Black Bear or Giant Black and White Annexation Lardbombs? Go here, select MINT STAMP and 2014 in the drop down menus.
  • Taiwan Review on the new national park in the Penghu
  • Ma tells K-town residents they should take the MRT and other tales from Ben at Letters from Taiwan. There have been lifelong authoritarian rulers who were less tone-deaf than Ma Ying-jeou. 
  • Huffington Post notes Sunflower influence on Hong Kong protests. This is amazing.... even though they get a UDN guy.
  • Chinese espionage now rampant in Taiwan
  • Ma vows to clean up food industry in Taiwan. Yawn. Let's revisit the past. Government vows to improve tracking after plasticizer scare (2011). I'm not going to bother searching for more.
  • WHOA: I was wondering when something suggestive like this would appear. The oil scandal for Ting Hsin/WeiChuan has caused the Ministry of Finance to put the brakes on Ting Hsin conglomerate's takeover of the management of Taipei 101. And there is the purchase of the cable news station. One wonders what toes Ting Hsin was going to step on. Lucky for those being stepped on the oil scandal broke, eh?
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Geoff C said...

The plan was to spend an enjoyable day at the National Palace Museum. After all, it has been about 8 years since we were last there. It was less than an hour after we arrived that we found ourselves in the middle of a mainland Chinese tour group and the flag carrying loud tour guide darted from exhibit to exhibit talking loudly and calling out to the stragglers. Disinterest was evident from many. They left the gallery only to be followed some 5 minutes later by another jostling group, and another. So on for the next hour. It became impossible to focus and appreciate exhibits and in any case it was often impossible to see unless we joined in the melee and pushed to the front. Less than two hours we gave up and went to get some coffee. We passed a table where we were solicited to give negative comments about our experiences. There is obvious concern that the tours are turning people off the museum. Alternatives were proposed like having tours in the morning. Extending the hours for Taiwanese into the evening. Giving discounts to Taiwanese nationals. So this tourist boost to the economy is advantageous to who? A similar situation happened at some of the tourist spots in Tainan where tour groups took precedence over individuals. Tourism is a two edged sword unless thoughtfully managed and considerate of the sensibilities of others.

Anonymous said...

I had the same experience at the museum on National Day. Rainy weather, free admission . . . why not pop in for an afternoon? Big mistake. It was impossible to pause and take anything in because of the Chinese habit of crowding in uncomfortably close and even jostling strangers. Anyone who has been to PRC knows what I mean. The only sanctuary available was the tea shop on the 4th floor (which is excellent, by the way). The museum offers free admission to ROC ID card holders on Friday and Saturday nights, I guess to make up for the shittiness of the experience at other times. The staff members on duty--private contractors, I think--all looked thoroughly miserable.

Mike Fagan said...

On tourism... last weekend I stopped briefly in the Sun Moon Lake visitor's center where I noticed something about the take-home leaflets. Along with a leaflet about things to do and see in Taipei city (so very likely aimed at Chinese tourists), the production quality was actually quite high - a lot of thoughtful design work and classy photography had gone into them. However, what struck me was the paucity of information about the lake itself and its' adjunctive engineering projects; the diversion tunnel down to the lake from the Wu Jie adjustment pool, and the three hydro-electric plants downhill on the lake's west side. If you pick up the take-home leaflets from these places (only Mingtan and Minghu offer them I think), you'll notice that things are reversed: the information content is reasonably high with some technical specs for the francis turbines, but the design and organization of the leaflets looks to have been a five-minute job compounded by a cock-up at the printers in gluing the pages together in the wrong order.

The other thing I noticed at Sun Moon Lake, and this was because I was expecting hordes of Chinese tourists, was that the traffic was only really bad on the 21 around the west side of the lake where all the shops are. On the 21 "jia" over on the east side where the temples are the traffic was light. The congestion on the west side wasn't all down to buses though, as there were an awful lot more cars presumably filled with Taiwanese day-trippers.

Anonymous said...

Last time I visited the National Palace museum I was treated to the sight of a Chinese brat pissing on the floor in the central atrium area as his father supervised. I asked the father if he had been unable to find the toilet and he angrily replied yes.

To be honest though, with the ridiculous crowds in there it has got hard to navigate. The toilets were not exactly hidden though.