Taiwanese universities have suffered a big drop in the number of Chinese students coming for short-term courses after the election of a more pro-independence president in January this year, according to local media.
There are unconfirmed suspicions that Beijing could be holding back students to punish Tsai Ing-wen, whose Democratic Progressive Party is much less friendly towards Beijing than the defeated Kuomintang party.
One private technological university in Tainan was expecting only 10 students, having anticipated 200, according to The China Post.
The university president blamed the city mayor’s support for Taiwanese independence for the drop in Chinese students, the paper reported. The Beijing government considers Taiwan part of China, but many in Taiwan support independence.
Pan Wen-chung, Taiwan’s education minister, said that he had not heard any word from Beijing that it would limit the number of students studying in Taiwan, although declared that he would “stick to the principle of allowing Taiwan's young students to enjoy all available opportunities for learning”.
He hoped that mainland China would do the same for Chinese students, the paper reported.
This summer, the number of tourist groups expected to travel to Taiwan from eastern China was expected to drop by a third, according to The China Post, a decline that also raised suspicions Beijing was attempting to increase economic pressure on Ms Tsai.
A more long-term decline in Chinese students would be particularly worrisome for Taiwanese universities because they are already under threat from the island’s ageing population.
Last year, the ministry of education said that it would have to merge universities because of a falling young population, with student numbers expected to drop by a third by 2023, but growing numbers of students from China have helped to offset this decline to some extent.