Unless you’re of Chinese-descent or maybe Asian, you probably haven’t yet heard about an interesting new China visa policy that extends benefits similar to the mighty 台胞证 (tai bao zheng, roughly “Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit“) to “all individuals with a demonstrable connection to the Chinese nation” (read: “anyone who is ethnically ‘Chinese'”). Apparently, this new policy was in the works for some time but only recently went into force.1
Unless you know some Taiwanese people, particularly those that travel to the mainland, you might not know just what the hell a tai bao zheng is, or what benefits it comes with. That’s understandable. Let’s do a brief review and comparison to help get you up to speed, and see why this is pretty big news for a lot of people:
You see, foreigners to China are typically required to apply for an entry visa (like an X, L, F, or Z visa) before they can enter the country, for any duration of time. How long you can stay is determined by that visa, with each visas being approved with either single or multiple entries, though for extended stays outside of government-approved hotels or service apartments, a separate temporary residence permit must be secured after arrival. Fortunately, this residence permit allows the holder to freely exit and re-enter China, as long as it is valid. Unfortunately, as many foreigners living or working in China know, renewal of these visas and permits can be a serious drag. Why? Because when your visa or permit expires, you need to leave China before you can return, with a new visa. This, obviously, costs money, time, and energy.
On the other hand, Taiwanese “compatriots” with a valid household registration in Taiwan — that province — can apply for a special “permit” called a “tai bao zheng“. It looks like what you see here to your left: a lime green pseudo-passport. It’s easy to get and few Taiwanese are ever denied one, unless they’re super-duper political, and in the wrong way. The key, however, is that they’re extremely easy to renew, within the mainland, without leaving the mainland, without having to go to even Hong Kong or Macau. It’s just a trip to your local Entry and Exit Administration Bureau. Like normal visas for foreigners, tai bao zheng holders still need something like a temporary residence permit, registering wherever they’re living, but this permit allows them to stay for a year (or more), free to come and go with the multiple entry and exit privileges. And it only costs 100 RMB.
…which is much cheaper than the costs associated with just about every normal visa.
As such, Taiwanese people get some pimp privileges when it comes to visiting and staying in mainland China, privileges befitting long lost brethren separated by civil war and ideology. Many foreign nationals who regularly travel to or live in China would love to have the ease and convenience of a tai bao zheng.
And now many more foreign nationals can.
Provided you can show that you’re somehow connected to the “Chinese nation,” that is.
Right, how one is supposed to demonstrate their connection to the Chinese nation is unclear (for me). Are we talking about Chinese descent? Is this limited to Han Chinese or all 56 Chinese minorities? Are we talking about emigration records, family trees, or gene testing? I’m thinking it boils down to blood, and things like marriage won’t cut it, though children of mixed descent do. I mean, is there a cut-off point by generation or blood purity, or does anyone who had a “Chinese” ancestor qualify?
I’ll leave it to Danwei or Shanghaiist to source out the exact details, and maybe ol’ chinaSMACK will come through for us with some mainland Chinese netizen reactions. But, for our part at china/divide, I’d just like hear what you guys think about this new policy. Now, obviously, anyone of “demonstrable connection to the Chinese nation” is likely to find it extremely advantageous to no longer have to bother with the ordinary restrictive and expensive visas, but how do non-Chinese people feel about this?
Of course, I’m not talking about simply envying the preferential treatment, saying “oh, you’re so lucky you’ve got a bit of Chinese in you”. Rather, I’m questioning the very concept of the modern Chinese government kinda-sorta uniting all “Chinese” under their banner with this preferential treatment. It’s one thing with Taiwan and the Taiwanese, given their unique and well-known history in relation with mainland China, but for the entirety of the “Chinese” diaspora?
Think about it, this new policy effectively lowers the barriers of entry for any person ethnically related to the Chinese, to travel, live, and even do business with mainland China. This opens doors, inviting a sizable population of people who were once officially “foreigners” now as (pseudo-) “family”. We used to talk about sea turtle returnees, Chinese who returned to China after going abroad to study and work, who brought their foreign education, experiences, and expertise back to help build up modern China. Now, we’re talking about the Chinese government veritably welcoming any and all “Chinese”, however estranged, back to their “homeland”, to contribute to, and to benefit from.
We used to live in a world where certain privileges came with your nationality. While your race and ethnicity has always implicitly brought you certain advantages and disadvantages, is this the first step towards a world where there are explicit benefits accrued to ethnicity alone, irrespective of borders and official citizenship?