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NEW WEEKLY, HAN HAN BLOG (China) CHINA TIMES, UNITED DAILY NEWS (Taiwan)

Worldcrunch

TAIPEI - The half-century political standoff across the Taiwan Strait is slowly easing. But it may be China's new waves of globetrotting tourists who help bury the axe once and for all, making the island nation a favorite new travel destination.

Chinese people have only recently been able to freely visit the island of Taiwan. After six decades of armed standoff, Taiwan and China re-established direct flights in 2008. Since 2011, Chinese people have been able to travel freely to Taiwan. And while the island's cities look downright provincial in comparison with the spanking-new metropolises of China, and its misty mountains and lakes seem puny compared to the majestic scenery in the western Chinese hinterland, Taiwan has one incomparable attraction, according to a Chinese magazine: "The most beautiful scenery of Taiwan is the people."

This is the title of the latest issue of "New Weekly," a magazine from Canton, China, a sort of love letter to Taiwan, so full of praise are the authors. Still the readers on the mainland may not get the whole picture. In the 200 pages of reporting detailing Taiwan's social, economic, cultural aspects, as well as life-style, sensitive political issues have been excluded, because those articles have to be reviewed by officials first. "Our biggest regret is that we thus are incapable of saying freely what we would have loved to report," says the New Weekly.

This follows on from the wholehearted praise two months ago coming from Han Han, China's most famous blogger, after a three-day visit to the island. It's fair to say that Taiwan is making spiritual shock waves among the Chinese people on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, according to the China Times and United Daily.

What impresses most the Chinese tourist and makes a difference is the cultural dimension it offers and the people that lie behind it. Not having suffered from the torment of the Cultural Revolution, Taiwan has largely kept intact most of its Chinese traditions and culture. In an article called "The Pacific Wind" written after a trip to Taiwan, Han Han wrote thus, "As a writer from the mainland, I feel at a total loss. I'm lost not because I have just made an ordinary superficial trip around Taiwan, but because this is always how I feel. I feel lost in the environment that I live in where in the first few decades (after the communists took power) people were taught to be cruel and to denounce each other. Later decades have made people greedy and selfish…. I'm lost in this society in which our culture, the traditional virtues, the trust between people, faith as well as consensus had been destroyed by our predecessors whereas the promised Brave New World has not yet been established…"

"In its efforts to retain and carry forward traditional culture, to combine Chinese and the Western civilization, Taiwan looks for its own path…. Why Taiwan attracts us mainly is neither its famous tourist spots nor its famous gastronomy, but its people who carry the society, culture as well as the value system," wrote Feng Xincheng, the managing editor of New Weekly feature reports, according to the United Daily News.

Whereas the Chinese talk about the current moral and ethical meltdown in today's China, many seem to be convinced that "Taiwan is a mirror for China to look into," Feng Xincheng added.

Han Han praised Taiwan's human touch, friendliness and courtesy while criticizing the relative indifference of his own people. "I'm more impressed by the Taiwanese taxi driver than by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou (who received the author)," he said recalling the honest taxi driver who sent his mobile phone, that he had forgotten in the car, back to his hotel.

Another point that has opened the eyes of the Chinese tourists in Taiwan is the political openness and freedom enjoyed by the Taiwanese, whom they call their "compatriots." The protests and banners on the streets, and in particular the various TV talk shows every night that allow people to criticize anything they like make them envious. "This is all too fresh for the Chinese tourists. Many are those who give up sightseeing in the nights so that they can watch the political talk shows and see how Taiwanese criticize their leaders freely and joyfully," Han Han pointed out.

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