Students and teachers from mainland explore true mainstream public opinion in Taiwan island
Published: Jul 28, 2023 12:38 PM Updated: Jul 28, 2023 12:32 PM
Students from the Chinese mainland who are about to conclude their exchange trip take a group photo with students from the island of Taiwan in Taoyuan International Airport on July 23, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

Students from the Chinese mainland who are about to conclude their exchange trip take a group photo with students from the island of Taiwan in Taoyuan International Airport on July 23, 2023. Photo: Xinhua

"During the days in Taiwan island, I could feel the hearts of youth across the Straits were connected. Through face-to-face talks, we unconsciously shortened the psychological distances and broke stereotypes between us. It was a sincere and two-way effort friendship," said Hu Xue, a Fudan University student who recalled her exchanges with college students in the island after the nine-day trip had just concluded.

At the invitation of the Taiwan-based Ma Ying-jeou Foundation, the visit of the mainland faculty delegation to the island was the first of its kind in three years. From finally confirming the visit just shortly before departure, to promising to young people in Taiwan to meet each other again in the future, there were many surprising, touching and promising stories to cherish and reminisce about.

Just like Hu Xue, 36 other teachers and students from Peking University, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, Wuhan University and Hunan University, have together had an ice-breaking and memorable tour from July 15 to Sunday. During the visit to Taipei, Taichung, New Taipei City, Hsinchu, and Hualien to explore the daily life in the island, they participated in group exchanges, as well as sports and cultural exchanges with students from National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, Chinese Culture University, and National Dong Hwa University.

Cao Liu, a delegation member who is a teacher from Hunan University in Central China's Hunan Province, called the trip a pleasant surprise. "It was in the noon of July 12 that we suddenly got the notice our trip to the island could take place. Before that we didn't know if we could go. Then I told the students to hurry up and pack and we rushed to Peking University in the evening," Cao recalled.

Cao said the delegation were originally worried if they would be welcomed by local public, media and people from other sectors when they arrived at the Taoyuan International Airport.

"But during the entire trip, we didn't see any unpleasant scenes or hear any unfriendly whispers. On the contrary, when we walked through the streets and alleys in the night markets or were on the high speed rail, many ordinary people would come and say to us 'Wishing you a smooth journey' and 'Come back soon!' I believed this reflected the mainstream public opinion within the island is warmly welcoming exchanges between young people," Cao said.

"The warm-hearted local people always moved us with their seemingly trivial gestures. When we just arrived there, I casually mentioned my fondness for pineapple cakes and mochi, and our entire group's luggage was filled with variously packaged sweet treats," said Chinese table tennis world champion Ding Ning, who retired in 2021 to pursue a master's degree at Peking University and visited the island with the delegation.

Every time the delegation arrived at a new location, they received so many various gifts which filled their suitcases. "We've considered removing the outer packaging so they could all fit. After taking many photos of the gifts, we removed the outer packaging, but still couldn't bear to throw them away. So, many people bought suitcases in Taiwan and brought back the gifts along with their packaging," said a delegation member from Peking University.

The mainland students recalled how the restaurant owner specially imported shepherd's purses from Shanghai and made dumplings for them after learning they came from the mainland as he was worried the students would not be used to local food. They were still in touch with a man they met on the high speed rail, who recommend tourist attractions and food to them via WeChat everyday during their trip. His kind words made them feel very touched.

More importantly, college students across the Straits learned the importance of face-to-face talks and on-site visits.

"A postdoctoral fellow from National Taiwan University told me she has visited the mainland several times to participate in exchange activities. And such direct experiential dialogue and communication shocked her. She could now break the previous information cocoon and reshape her perception of the mainland," said Tao Danfeng, a delegation member from Wuhan University.

Tsinghua University doctorial student Fu Ke echoed Tao's feeling, saying that due to misinformation spread by some Taiwan-based media, young people in the islands sometimes have an incomplete understanding toward the mainland, but some misunderstandings can be resolved through face-to-face communication.

"Our friends in the island of Taiwan have also become aware of this situation, especially those who have visited the mainland before. They say you must go to the mainland to see for yourself and then you can have a more objective and genuine impression of the development of both sides across the Taiwan Straits," Fu said.

"When talking to a Taiwan student about future career choices, she said whether it's in Taiwan or the mainland, she hoped to contribute to the prosperity and development of the Chinese nation. I think this reflected the recognition and support of young people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits for the concept 'people across the Straits are all part of the same family,' as well as our expectations for a better tomorrow for both sides," said Hu Xue.