China plans to express its discontent with Taiwan’s new leadership by leveraging the spending power of its outbound tourists, with plans to reduce the number of Taiwan-bound mainlanders by half by the end of the year.
According to United Evening News, the move comes after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s refusal after taking office to acknowledge the “1992 Consensus,” an understanding of sorts that both the PRC and the ROC are part of the same China.
Following intervention by Beijing, the total number of mainland tourists visiting Taiwan are estimated to fall to under two million this year. On March 20, China is said to have cut the number of tourists by one-third, down 50,000 from the previous quota of 150,000.
Tourism insiders say that the sanctions will escalate as the year progresses, with only 75,000 allowed to visit from next month and then reduced further to 37,500 from October. China is also said to be cutting the number of mainland students allowed to attend universities in Taiwan.
A record 4.1 million tourists visited in 2015, contributing an estimated NT$230 billion ($7.1 billion) to the Taiwanese economy. If the reports are accurate, the curbs on cross-strait tourism represent the first signs of Beijing’s willingness to apply economic pressure to discourage the new leadership from making any moves towards independence.
Beijing has not been shy about voicing their disapproval at Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP’s landslide victory in January’s general election. Two weeks ago Beijing threatened to suspend communications unless the newly elected Tsai Ing-wen backtrack on her inauguration speech and acknowledge the “1992 Consensus.”
Xinhua News later ran an editorial which claimed that Tsai was extremist and prone to erratic behavior because she was a single woman without “the emotional burden of love.” It was later removed after facing a firestorm of criticism both at home and abroad.