Chinese Tourist's Gripes Provoke Anger and Soul-searching in Taiwan

Chinese Tourist's Gripes Provoke Anger and Soul-searching in Taiwan
Photo Credit: Cliffano Subagio CC BY-SA 2.0
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A Chinese tourist writing under the pseudonym “Prince of out-of-body experiences” (靈魂出竅的小王子) published an article an blogging site Tianya sharing his thoughts on a trip to Taiwan that he took in April of 2017. Unimpressed with the country, his complaints have proven to be a flashpoint and have prompted a range of responses online in Taiwan ranging from indignation to acceptance.

"From the outside, life looks hard"

The writer mentioned what he liked about Taiwan; service was especially good in hotels and shopping malls and the salaries for some working-class jobs were higher than in China. The signage was also better; for example, parks had signs saying to keep dogs on a leash and clean up after them – and people actually followed them.

However, the author criticized seven things about the country:

1. Urban development is lagging. Kaohsiung and Taichung had so few skyscrapers. Even Taipei looked like a second-tier Chinese city, not even as developed as Dalian (a coastal city in northeast China's Liaoning province).

2. Prices were high. Both eating and shopping were about 10 percent more expensive than in Beijing, but simple lunches could still be had on the cheap.

3. Payment was too awkward. There were only a few shops that accepted WeChat Pay or Alipay, and many places didn’t even take credit cards.

4. There is not enough good food. Everybody said that Taiwanese night markets were delicious and we went to 6 of them, even Fengjia and Shilin, and there really weren’t that many good things to eat. They went to night markets every night, and thought that the food was really all the same.

5. The government wants to reduce trash and encourage people to recycle, and only put trash cans in universities and metro stations divided into recyclable and non-recyclable litter. However, upon inspecting the contents of trash cans, it seems that they were all mixed together.

6. People’s lives seemed very hard. On the Taipei metro, the author heard an old man calling somebody in a loud voice saying that his phone was about to run out of credit and cursing at the people on the other end.

7. The political environment seemed so unstable. All day, TV showed different political parties arguing with each other.

Taiwanese indignation

As soon as the article was posted, it triggered widespread controversy around Taiwan. “It is hard to recognize ourselves in these opinions,” said one comment. “We have no choice but to talk about Taiwan’s struggles; if we close ourselves off from the world we will end up in a rut. But it’s not us that are falling behind, China is progressing too quickly.

“The poster is not wrong," said another comment. "Taiwan is fighting a fierce struggle against internal friction, and the gap with our neighboring country is getting larger.”

“When someone criticizes us, we shouldn’t avoid the subject," came another response. "It was sad to see the issue of our waste separation brought up. Obviously, we can do better at recycling. Why are we throwing things in the trash? It’s because of laziness.”

“The truth always hurts," another said. "I went to Lehua and Nanshijiao night markets recently, and the things I bought actually did all taste the same.”

Others said that the seven points were invalid because Taiwan was being held back by Chinese people who had fled to Taiwan: “After a while, they dragged everyone else down.” Another challenged: “Let’s see you comment on the Tiananmen Square Incident.”

Recently, Beijing has been on a campaign to “clean up the population” and forcibly got rid of a great deal of mixed-use housing, ostensibly in response to a fire. Artist Hua Yong was arrested on Dec. 15 for recording evictions.

Mobile payments are in the works. Premier Lai has said that he hopes mobile payments will be pervasive by 2025. Others worry that poor encryption will lead to widespread fraud.

An unabridged Chinese-language version of this article can be found here.

TNL Editor: Morley J Weston