Our friend Rob is the only foreigner accompanying a group of Mainlanders from Nankai University on an academic/tourist trip to Taiwan. He’s blogging it all, and in this post writes about some of his Mainland Chinese classmates’ first impressions of Taiwanese people and society: “Yesterday when we were hiking back down a different mountain, we passed several people coming up who nodded and said hello. The first time this happened, we got no more than ten feet past them before Xuebin turned to me and said, with astonishment, “They don’t even know us! I can’t believe they’re saying hello!” It wasn’t an expression of distaste, but rather of amazement. How could ordinary people be so friendly, with no strings attached?”
And in a later post: “Xuebin then told me something extraordinary. Dr. Ma, the teacher, had apparently been approached by a representative from the Nankai University Marxism department, and asked to give a short lecture to the students assuring them that Taiwan isn’t nearly as nice as it seems. The clean streets and nice air and friendly people are all just illusions that were put on to impress mainland visitors. Actually, Taiwan is a very dark place that lacks the wisdom and enlightened guidance of the mainland government. Dr. Ma, appalled, declined. I was appalled, too. Who wouldn’t be?
“But that’s how deeply this visit has affected my mainland friends. None of them want to go back… Students have come here and, in large part, have seen what the mainland could have been. They’ve seen what a Chinese society is like when culture is preserved and people are free to read and discuss what they like.”