WASHINGTON: An official delegation from the Chinese city of Shanghai arrived in Taipei on Saturday, February 18 for a cultural event. This is the first official Chinese mission to Taiwan since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The move has drawn particular attention amid increasingly tense military clashes across the strait.
The Shanghai delegation came from the Taiwan Affairs Office of Shanghai Municipality and consisted of six officials. The head of the delegation is Li Xiaodong, deputy director of the Shanghai Taiwan Affairs Office. They plan to stay in Taiwan for three days and finish their visit on February 20. Taipei Mayor Jiang Wanan said the Taiwan Affairs Office in Shanghai and its delegation came to participate in the Taipei Lantern Festival at the invitation of the Taipei City Government. The modalities of the visit were approved by the Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council. The themes of the visit focused on tourism, culture and art, and urban exchanges.
The Taipei Lantern Festival is an international cultural exchange event, with participants from South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and other countries. Jiang Wan’an said Shanghai also has works on display at the Lantern Festival, so it is customary to invite mainland festivals to participate.
According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Jian Shupei, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party’s northern city council, posted on Facebook that friends from Shanghai are welcome in Taipei to enjoy the lanterns, and Jiang Wan’an is also invited to speak on behalf of Taiwanese, expressing that Taiwanese hate the CCP’s unreasonable repression of bullies. Li Xiaodong and his group did not communicate with the media after getting off the plane at Taipei Songshan Airport. They left the airport in a commercial vehicle under high security.
When Chinese authorities exited the airport, a group of Taiwan independence supporters shouted slogans such as “Taiwan and China, one country on each side” and “You can visit, but don’t talk about a united front.” A member of Taiwan’s National Founding Party, surnamed Wang, told Reuters that Li Xiaodong could come to Taiwan, but if Taiwan wants peace, it must prepare for war and it must work with other democracies to deter China from invading Taiwan.
According to a Reuters report, a man named Chen said Taiwanese are hospitable and welcome guests to Taiwan, but they fear these people will come to Taiwan to promote China’s Taiwanese policy. The man said that everything China does must serve politics and that their goal is to unite the front. The Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council said the delegation should keep a low profile during its visit to Taiwan, hoping the visit can promote mutual understanding and conduct “healthy exchanges.”
Jiang Wanan said the Taiwan Mainland Business Council established the principles of the visit: discreet, simple and safe.After Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office at Taiwan’s presidential palace in 2016, Beijing refused any exchanges and communication with its government. In recent years, the CCP authorities have intensified their propaganda efforts to unify Taiwan through military force, and at the same time increased military pressure on Taiwan. The Chinese military frequently conducts military exercises around Taiwan, and Chinese military aircraft and warships cross the central line of the Taiwan Strait and approach Taiwan for activities, which has greatly escalated military tension in the Taiwan Strait.
However, since the end of last year, Beijing’s position on Taiwan has suddenly changed. China’s state media highlighted the theme of peaceful reunification and lowered the tone of military reunification. Xia Liyan, vice chairman of Taiwan’s largest opposition party, the Chinese Kuomintang, and his party visited China last week, unexpectedly, received special courtesy. Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, met with Xia Liyan and his party. Wang Huning said Beijing attaches great importance to the “wishes for peace, tranquility and good life of Taiwanese compatriots.”
Over the past three years, the CCP has adhered to the “zero dynamic” anti-epidemic policy internally, causing severe humanitarian disasters, complaints from ordinary people, and a depression in the economy. Outwardly, the CCP has strengthened its “wolf warrior diplomacy,” which has offended almost the entire Western world. Numerous cross-border polls show that the proportion of negative impressions of China has reached an all-time high.
Observers pointed out that by the end of last year, after China’s fight against the epidemic was eased, the epidemic situation had improved. In order to promote economic recovery, Beijing has had to adjust its foreign policy in order to attract foreign investment and restore the economy. The CCP’s favor of Taiwan should be part of this political adjustment.