As two dozen anxious Chinese travelers began their maiden voyage across the Taiwan Strait, their tour guide called an impromptu meeting in the airport departure lounge
He warned them about littering, spitting, flooding hotel bathroom floors — and the local cuisine. “Our Taiwanese brothers do not like salt, oil and MSG the way we do,” the guide, Guo Xin, said with a sigh.
Then his voice grew serious, the way a coach might caution his team about the impending face-off with a deceptively courteous opponent. Do not talk about politics with the locals, he warned, say only positive things about Taiwan and China, and by all means avoid practitioners of Falun Gong, the spiritual group whose adherents roam freely on Taiwan but are regularly jailed on the mainland. “They will definitely try to talk to you,” he said. “When that happens, get away as fast as you can.”
And thus began the heavily chaperoned visit to Taiwan, the disputed island territory where Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist army fled in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao’s Communist rebels.