Tourists from mainland China aren’t the only ones taking advantage of direct cross-strait flights. Taiwanese politicians from the DPP, known for its traditional insistence on Taiwanese independence, are also beginning to take trips to the mainland. Yunlin county commissioner Su Zhifen, a member of the DPP, is leading a trade commission to Beijing.
This article from the Southern Metropolis Daily (连接) gives us more. Partial translation is below:
“I’m going to the mainland in my role as a county commissioner. So, my perspective is anything that benefits the interests of the people in my county, then I will do it. If I complicate my thoughts on this issue too much, then many things won’t get done.”
Ma Yingjiu’s defeat of Xie Changting’s was critical in allowing the Mainland Affairs Commission to change policies towards the mainland. On July 3rd, the law was revised relaxing restrictions on Taiwanese county commissioners and mayors visiting the mainland. Su Zhifen will be the first DPP member to take advantage. (Ed: KMT mayor of Taizhong, Jason Hu, has also been to Xiamen following this change in law.)
Today (July 12th), Yunlin county commissioner Su Zhifen will lead a delegation aboard a cross-strait weekend charter flight, headed to Beijing. They are going to “find a route for Yunlin county’s farmers”, pushing quality agricultural products. Su Zhifen will be the first DPP county or city head to visit the mainland since 2000. Although this trip is based on economic needs, everyone has noticed the change in political path implied by the trip.
Southern Metropolis: You’re headed to Beijing tomorrow, how do you feel emotionally?
Su: Of course I’m hopeful. I’m going to Beijing in order to push Yunlin county’s agricultural products, and I hope that we can return satisfied.
Southern Metropolis: How many times have you been to the mainland?
Southern Metropolis: What’s your imagined view of Beijing and Tianjin?
Su: My first thought is of the Forbidden Palace. I’ve seen some books, and I know Beijing has some hutongs. I’m pretty interested in hutongs. I know for the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese mainland invited many foreign architects. I’m curious with that clash between culture, between old and new, what the city will look like. I really want to go see. Other than that, they all say traffic in Beijing is very serious.
Southern Metropolis: In all of the cities and counties ruled by the DPP, why is the Yunlin county commissioner the first to go to the mainland?
Su: This doesn’t have too much to do with the party central. Every county and city head is independent, they’re all administered in their own styles. Yunlin is an agricultural county, and for the past 40-50 years has always been run by the KMT. I’m the first person to take charge as a member of the DPP, and so many situations are different from other areas.
In the past, while the KMT was in charge of Yunlin, we felt it was a little backwards in methods and values. So, these two years we’re not just headed to the mainland, but also Japan and other countries. For example, this year lone, we will be going to Macau, Beijng, and then Singapore. On Taiwan itself we’ve also arranged numerous sales activities. We’re going to grab every opportunity; as a county chief, I believe I’m a salesman, and not just the head of the local yamen.
Southern Metropolis: Mainland and Taiwan relations are a little tricky, especially since the DPP internally has a complicated attitude towards the mainland. When you decided to go to Beijing for your sales trip, what was the reaction from inside the party?
Su: Privately, we had a summit between seven county commissioners and mayors from southern Taiwan, and this problem was brought up and discussed. We exchanged thoughts on this; what should we sell over there, what are our thoughts… that was it. The party has never brought up this issue with us.
Southern Metropolis: Gaoxiong mayor Chen Ju will also be going to the mainland in a little while. Based on your understanding at this summit, will more and more DPP politicians be headed to the mainland on sales trips?
Su: Right now, only Chen Ju and I are going. I haven’t heard anything from the other commissioners or mayors, but they might have similar plans.
Southern Metropolis: I noticed tha the DPP’s “Liberty Times” has basically had only negative reports on the arrival of mainland touists. The title of one article was: “Opening the door will wreck Taiwan”. I feel like your perspective might be different from theirs. In the DPP, who’s perspective better represents the mainstream, you or the Liberty Times?
Su: When Taiwanese tourists traveled around the world, they can also have some crude actions, and we’re all against this. We always say that when Taiwanese tour foreign countries, they must be careful of their international image. I think that’s just the case for mainland tourists. Mainland tourists are guests however, so we must view and treat them with good will. I haven’t seen that article from the Liberty Times, so I won’t express an opinion on it. But I will just make a statement of principle, whenever someone goes to a different place, we hope that both sides will be courteous and polite. To guests, we should have a friendlier attitude.
Souther Metropolis: If you could say a few words to our readers and mainland friends, what would you say?
Su: In the past, because of political reasons, contact between Taiwan and the mainland was relatively little. We hope to market Yunlin county’s agricultural goods in Beijing during the Olympic season, so that we can open another window and let mainland consumers better recognize Yunlin’s agricultural products. As an agricultural county, Yunlin works hard to make sure our products are safe and nutritious. We hope more mainland consumers will come to recognize us, and if you like it, hope that you will help support our efforts!
This is probably the most meaningful aspect of improving relations; reunification won’t be possible just because pan-Blue politicians support it… they’re more or less the choir, no need to keep preaching to them. Instead, it’s important in the long run that moderate pan-Green supporters come to tolerate closer integration with mainland China. And if Su’s only knowledge of Beijing is of traffic and hutongs, I think she’s going to be pleasantly surprised by what she finds.
I’m not going to appeal to their Chinese nationalism, but if pan-Green politicians are truly focused on the concrete interests of the people they represent, I’m increasingly optimistic. It’s a sad fact that even this very innocent promotion of cross-strait trade was frowned upon by the DPP under the previous administration, and I hope we’ll never return to those days again.
DPP politicians aren’t the only ones making the trip. Aboriginal performers from Taiwan are headed to the mainland, in order to perform in the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. Aboriginals in Taiwan are known as the gaoshanzu (high mountain) in the PRC’s official classification of 56 nationalities.