Dec 16

Direct Flights between China & Taiwan Begin

Written by Steve on Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 at 2:47 am
Filed under:General, News, politics, technology |
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It’s about time!

Per Mark McDonald at the International Herald Tribune: Shortly after dawn Monday, a passenger plane took off from Shenzhen, China, bound for Taiwan. The 80-minute flight across the Taiwan Strait marked the first regular cross-strait traffic since the end of the civil war in 1949 and another dramatic step in the improvement of relations between the two countries.

The Shenzhen Airlines flight from China – along with a later TransAsia Airways flight to Shanghai from Taiwan’s capital, Taipei – inaugurated regular direct flights between Taiwan and mainland China. Direct ship traffic and mail service also began Monday, state media reported.

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported that the flight from Shenzhen took off at 7:20 a.m. The TransAsia flight from Taipei left 46 minutes later. A total of 16 direct passenger flights were scheduled Monday.

When Ma Ying-jeou, the president of Taiwan, took office in May, he pledged to improve relations with the mainland, especially in trade. Beijing has largely welcomed the changes, although China still claims sovereignty over Taiwan. The countries signed agreements Nov. 4 to open the direct links that began Monday, and the improved connections were expected to benefit both economies through increased tourism and faster delivery of mail, parcels and remittances. China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner.

As many as 108 direct passenger charters are due to operate each week across the strait, state media reported Monday, as well as 60 direct cargo flights a month. The flights will come and go from 21 cities on the mainland and eight cities in Taiwan.

Twenty cargo ships from both countries were scheduled to set out across the strait on Monday. Sea voyages are now expected to take four days, according to the state-run newspaper China Daily, about half the time of previous indirect routes.

Passenger flights have been flying between China and Taiwan since July, but not daily and not regularly – only tourist-group charters on weekends and holidays. Previously, nonstop flights have had to take roundabout routes through Hong Kong airspace. The direct flights cut flying time in half.

It was in July that ordinary Chinese citizens were finally allowed to visit Taiwan as tourists. Before then, only Chinese citizens who were permanent residents of a foreign country or those with special permission for business or cultural exchanges could visit the island.

The president of China Airlines, Taiwan’s largest carrier, was quoted by Bloomberg last month as saying the number of mainland travelers flying to the island could reach one million by 2010, up from about 300,000 last year.

Though some in Taiwan have objected to this policy, I always felt this would benefit the people in Taiwan far more than the people in China. I’d leave my condo in Taipei on a Sunday morning around 7 AM, grab the 10:30 flight to Hong Kong, spend two hours there and catch a flight to Shanghai. I’d arrive around 5 PM when if I could have flown directly, it would have been an hour and 15 minutes. The cost and distance prevented many Taiwan expats working in China from visiting their families except for the major holidays.

They used to call the Taiwan/Hong Kong/Shanghai or Beijing route the “Golden Route” because it was so profitable for the airlines but a huge cost (both financially and time wise) to the businessmen who had to make that flight on a regular basis. Cathay Airlines will lose a lot of business, but the Chinese and Taiwan airlines will see a huge increase in business.

Now that flights between Taiwan and most Chinese cities will be short and at a lower cost, do you think this will bring more Chinese tourists to the island? How long before Chinese businessmen can fly to Taiwan with easy visa entry? Will this help or hurt relations between the two?

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32 Responses to “Direct Flights between China & Taiwan Begin”

  1. Netizen K Says:

    I was checking Time China Blog. Nothing there. It seems every time there is bad news about, they are first to put something up; every time there is good news, they are the last or missed.

  2. Allen Says:

    What??? No fireworks?? 🙂

    I guess water cannons would have to do for now… Maybe they should have put some dye in the water though – red, yellow, blue, green – something like that…

    Anything to make things a little more festive!

  3. Father Christmas! Says:

    How long before direct cargo flights? Why were they not included in this agreement?

    Why didn’t this happen years ago under Chen Shuibian? He was open to direct links but China wouldn’t negotiate.

    Are Taiwanese carriers (shipping and airborne) going to get a fair share of the cross-strait business?

    As for tourism, why the recent fixation on tourists from the PRC to the neglect of other markets? It’s great if tourists from the PRC visit Taiwan (provided they aren’t used by the PRC for espionage, sabotage or something – but hopefully that will never happen), but it is pointless if fixation on cultivating this market leads to tourist numbers from elsewhere declining.

    Cross-strait exchange is great for both sides.

    However, Taiwan’s government seems fixated on China at the moment to the detriment of everything else.

  4. Falen Says:

    Long overdue, the Taipei-Shanghai route takes off from the the airport inside the city too, so one can literally wake up 7am and casually strolls to the airport by 8am and arrive Shanghai at 9:30am instead of the 6 7 hours affair which takes basically a whole day.

  5. Jane Says:

    Like millions of Mainland Chinese, my grandfather was stranded in Taiwan after the Civil War. He never saw his parents again. He was separated from his wife and children for forty years. The hardship my grandmother endured is unimaginable to most people. And now, it takes a mere hour or two to fly from Taipei to Shanghai, something my grandfather waited for for four decades. Yeah, it’s about time.

  6. FOARP Says:

    Long overdue, should have happened after 1990.

  7. TonyP4 Says:

    No need to go to stop in Hong Kong. Any one old enough to remember the 50th anniversary of bombing Gold Gate in Taiwan? China had to spend a lot of foreign reserve to buy the bombs that covered the island.

  8. Steve Says:

    @Father Christmas!: To answer your question, direct cargo flights are included in the agreement; I think you just missed this part “as well as 60 direct cargo flights a month”.

    Chen was president when I lived in Taiwan and I always had the feeling that even if China agreed to negotiate with him, he would have found some excuse to drag it out, so neither side really had any intention of making this happen. I couldn’t see China ever giving him this feather in his cap. They just wanted him out and were waiting for the next guy. Back then, his argument was that China could attack the island under the cover of direct flights, so the best he would ever agree to would have been the routes that went over HK airspace, similar to the previous charter flights.

    From what I’ve read, Chinese and Taiwanese carriers will both split the business, so it should be pretty even. I believe Taiwan actually exports more to China than they import, so I’ll try to clarify that part of it and let you know if I find something.

    Speaking of tourism, I always felt that Taiwan could have a huge tourist market if they developed the infrastructure better and got the word out. They’ve always been weak in this area. I guess they are pushing for Chinese tourists because the potential market is so huge, but since Chinese tourists tend to spend less than others, I can see your point and would think that high spending Japanese tourists would be better. Oh wait, the Japanese DO have successful tours to Taiwan, except that those are sex tours. 🙂

    I would agree with your last sentence. As the Ma administration’s popularity sinks to record depths, all his people seem to talk about is China. Unless he remembers that all politics is local and not international, he’ll be a one term president and the KMT legislature could take a big hit in the next election. It’s the economy, stupid! 😛

    @Falen: Thanks for pointing that out! I flew out of Songshan once on a flight to Tainan and it was so easy to access compared to the CKS/Taoyuan/Whatever It’s Called These Days Airport. However, I would suspect China is gloating over that one, since Songshan is a “domestic” rather than “international” airport. Taiwan Province, anyone? (that’s for you, Allen) 😀

    @Jane: So sorry to hear about your family tragedy. It is a stark example of the human costs of war. Forty years is a long time to live with a void in your heart, knowing the person you love is so near yet out of reach.

    @TonyP4: Sorry, I’m not old enough. Can you elaborate? Did that have something to do with Kinmen or Matsu? I seem to remember there was an incident of some sort way back then.

  9. TonyP4 Says:

    Steve, everyone in Taiwan old or young should remember the Gold Gate bombing. It could be the first step to capture Taiwan, or showed Taiwan what they could do. It could be the most densely bombed for the island (I think it is an island off from Taiwan). One Chinese hero survived from the incident Japanese started the war died in the island ironically. China used up so much reserve (at that time mostly farm products) to buy bombs from Russia that led to famine. Try Wikipedia and the web to find out more. I was just born but too young to remember the detail.

    They talked about building a bridge between the Gold Gate and the mainland. I think it is not financially feasible due to the long distance.

    The flight is due to the better relationship between KMT and China. KMT wants the missiles not pointing at Taiwan before further improvement. I would be glad to see no civil war in my life time. The business relationship is the force that pulls them together.

  10. Father Christmas! Says:

    Ah well. . . if cargo flights are included I’m pretty happy.

    I’m still not happy about the fact they were negotiated party to party though. Even if the Chinese refused to deal with a non-KMT government, as the government of a democratic state the KMT had no excuse to conduct the negotiations on a party to party basis.

    It’s good that it’s happening, but I’m ambivalent about how it has come about.

  11. Netizen K Says:

    Let’s be honest. Taiwan desperately needs direct flights. DPP knew it. KMT knew it. China let KMT and Ma Ying-jeou have the credit because they are more pro-China than DPP.

    If DPP doesn’t get on board, it could be marginalized again.

  12. Netizen K Says:

    Time China Blog still hasn’t got the news yet. As I said there, it is really Time Anti-China Blog.

  13. Father Christmas! Says:

    I don’t know that Taiwan ‘desperately needs direct flights’. They’ve managed to do business in China pretty well without them.

  14. Netizen K Says:

    You don’t know because you’re in the north polar and frozen to death.

  15. Charles Liu Says:

    In all honesty, Taipei to Shenzhen was not bad (CKS to HK airport, then catch ferry from HK airport to Shekou.)

    Appearantly, the US arms deal to Ma administration didn’t hurt the direct flight negotiation. What gives? Seriousely, such negotiation is two way street. If Chen got rid of his regionalism and be the president of ROC instead of Taiwan, the direct flight deal probably would’ve happened during his term.

    For those of you in the know, I needn’t tell you about the change in attitude we see from TECO officials.

  16. Leo Says:

    Regarding the Taiwanese’s sentiment about Kinmoy or Kinmen or Gold Gate, my mom was almost killed in 1950s by the air raids over Shanghai by KMT government.

  17. TonyP4 Says:

    It is Kinmen. The year was 1958, so it is the 50th anniversary. There is an article from Wikipedia and some in World Journal magazine included in the Chinese newspaper published in US. I did not realize KMT air raided SH. Again it proves that war is no good. Hope I do not see a civil war in my life time.

  18. shel Says:

    TonyP4, war is sometime good, especially for nation with serious human right problem, meaning the US of A.
    It is the bloody civil war that finally abolished slave ownership. Then it was the Korean war and Vietnam war that open up the eyes and ears of the African American that led to Ms. Park to sit in the front of the public bus, so that Mr. King can walk to Washington, and now Obama can run for the President. Without the war, there is no chance for the minority in the US to break the myth of white supremacy. If you see your white brother bleed as you do, plead for mercy like you do in the hand of a non-white enemy, how could you accept a subservient position back home, especially if you are called to defend some one else’s freedom and equality when you are not offered back home.
    It is tragic to have war to set something right, but you have no choice with racist.

  19. shel Says:

    I was wondering now whether Obama is the product of the latest war in the middle east. If it is then again the minority moved a step forward becasue of war. America is a unique states that improve itself through war. The saying that you have to burn down the village to save it was the correct description of the American way. We have to hope that they don’t burn down the earth to save it for us all.

  20. TonyP4 Says:

    I hope we have more ML King, Gandhi… to protect social injustice and settle differences than using force. The Chinese history is full of war destruction. The ones who suffer most are the common folks.

  21. facts Says:

    Just read the first paragraph in this IHT piece:
    Shortly after dawn Monday, a passenger plane took off from Shenzhen, China, bound for Taiwan. The 80-minute flight across the Taiwan Strait marked the first regular cross-strait traffic since the end of the civil war in 1949 and another dramatic step in the improvement of relations between the two countries.
    1. “…end of the civil war in 1949…”
    The civil war has not officially ended. The fighting stopped for almost 50 yrs, but no legal document ever signed to conclude the Chinese Civil War.

    2. “….improvement of relations between the two countries”
    What “two countries”? There are no “two countries”, but one country called China with two opposing sides in an unfinished civil war. No legal document ever signed to acknowledge the division of China. Mainland and Taiwan both belong to China.

    3. This is the art of western propaganda called spinning. This is how the Westerners are brainwashed to believe a lie, that Taiwan is already an independent country. Don’t tell me this is a slip of the tongue, this article is highly crafted to tell a white lie,a half truth without readers noticing it—–typical practice of the free press lie machine.

  22. FOARP Says:

    @Facts – So what did the story actually say? Or didn’t you bother reading beyond the first paragraph?

    You know, I’m sure the 800,000+ Taiwanese men living on the mainland with wives in Taiwan are very happy that their wives can now come and visit them so easily.

  23. facts Says:

    I just want to raise the awareness of omnipresent Western propaganda. If Western media want to talk about 800,000 Taiwan men, why start off with the first paragraph like that? So why only allow the free press to spin and lie, but I should not point out the truth?

  24. TonyP4 Says:

    FORAP, I do not think the 800,000 men want to see their wives while the majority enjoying the ‘second wives’ (good and affordable by-product made in China) in the mainland.

  25. FOARP Says:

    @Facts – but you do not then actually bother to actually read what they actually wrote – this destroys your credibility and makes it look as if you are merely looking for things to get angry about.

  26. Steve Says:

    @TonyP4: Ha ha, that’s exactly what I was thinking! You beat me to it…

    @facts: I wrote this up precisely because I thought it was great that this happened. That’s why I started it off with “it’s about time”. Do you realize that you took a completely positive story and “cherry picked” a few words to condemn it?

    Yeah, I know a peace treaty has never been signed but last I looked, both governments seemed to be getting along pretty well and as FOARP said, with 800,000 Taiwanese men living on the mainland, it sure doesn’t seem like much of a civil war. Isn’t that nitpicking on your part? As far as the two countries, I know China’s position is that there is only one country and most countries, including my own, abide by this position but you must admit that Taiwan’s position is unique in the world, with their own government, military, currency, etc., it’s not too far of a stretch to use the word “countries” in a news article.

    There are plenty of threads where the status of Taiwan has been argued and I’m sure plenty in the future where it’ll be argued again, but to condemn an article for this is pretty ridiculous. It might be beyond your understanding, but the “west” doesn’t have a propaganda department to regulate what the press prints. That’s up to each individual media outlet. Try not to turn a positive development into a negative, ok?

  27. facts Says:

    Still my question why IHT can stuff propaganda in every of its “news” piece, even the so-call “positive” piece, why can’t I point out the truth? Why point out the truth is considered “negative”? Why push propaganda is considered “positive”?

    This is what I am talking about. Some consider selling less drug on street is a defense for an accused drug dealer. IF IHT changes its name to propaganda department of Western establishment, I may stop. But pushing propaganda in the name of “news reporting” is wrong.

  28. Steve Says:

    @facts #27: Why? Because it’s not the truth; it’s a political position. I’m not saying the position is right or wrong. That’s for China and Taiwan to work out over time and your opinion about it is certainly welcome and respected. But to say there is only “one China” is a political fiction at this point. The future might change that and personally, I think the relationship between the two WILL change in the future, but I don’t really see it as a stretch to say “two countries” and certainly not propaganda.

    Propaganda: Official government communications to the public that are designed to influence opinion. The information may be true or false, but it is always carefully selected for its political effect.

    I really don’t think the reporter for the IHT is on any government’s payroll. However, the CCP’s use of the term “One China” fits the definition of propaganda. As for the word “country”…

    coun⋅try   /ˈkʌntri/ Pronunciation [kuhn-tree]
    noun, plural -tries, adjective
    1. a state or nation: What European countries have you visited?
    2. the territory of a nation.
    3. the people of a district, state, or nation: The whole country backed the president in his decision.
    4. the land of one’s birth or citizenship.
    5. rural districts, including farmland, parkland, and other sparsely populated areas, as opposed to cities or towns: Many city dwellers like to spend their vacations in the country.
    6. any considerable territory demarcated by topographical conditions, by a distinctive population, etc.: mountainous country; the Amish country of Pennsylvania.
    7. a tract of land considered apart from any geographical or political limits; region; district.
    8. the public.
    9. Law. the public at large, as represented by a jury.

    As you can see, there are several definitions of the word “country” that fall within the “One China” concept. You are using definition #1, but you are assuming that the reporter is using that same definition where there are others that fit the situation and do not contradict your own feelings. Taken in context, it certainly seems he is NOT using definition #1.

    As to the end of the Civil War, I’d describe that as a “phony war”. It’s hard to make that argument when Taiwan and mainland China have an enormous amount of trade, tourism and general interaction. Since 1949 and the Quemoy shelling and subsequent raids, things have been pretty quiet between the two. So your statement is technically correct but not really valid from a practical point of view.

    facts, you stated, “Still my question why IHT can stuff propaganda in every of its “news” piece, even the so-call “positive” piece, why can’t I point out the truth?” In EVERY of its “news” piece? Can you document that? Isn’t that an exaggeration? Using your definition, couldn’t I say your exaggeration is propaganda?

    When our own country utilizes certain methods to support its cause, it is easy for us to use “projection”, as psychologists would say, assuming other countries do the same thing. China has an official propaganda department. This department controls the media in China. So it is easy to project that all governments do the same. Now every government has its methods of disseminating propaganda, including the States, UK and Western Europe, but they do it in more subtle ways, aka the Judith Miller scandal at the NY Times.

    There’s also a contradiction at work here. The “One China” adherents believe Taiwan is a province of China and even today, the people living in Taiwan are Chinese. I’ve lived in Taiwan, and I can tell you that (Allen excepted, and he lives in the States anyway) the majority of them believe Taiwan is a country and would have absolutely no problem with this reporter’s wording, even under definition #1. They’re not pushing for independence, they just want to keep things as ‘status quo’. So if they are Chinese and feel this way, then you cannot say that the position of the Chinese is a “One China” position unless you also admit that Taiwan is not a part of China. You can say it is the CCP position; you can say it is the mainland Chinese position, but you’d contradict yourself by saying it is the Chinese position. I’m not arguing for that position; I’m just saying it can get very tricky and has moved to the land of diplomacy, nuance and shades of gray rather than black/white.

    I’m sure we’ll have plenty of discussions about Taiwan/China in the future. facts, I’m looking forward to your in depth analysis at that time, but I still feel that a discussion about a very positive development is best kept positive, and no need to complain about “sour grapes” because of a couple of minor phrases.

  29. facts Says:

    @ Steve
    One China is a legal reality.
    The first internationally recognized treaty concerning Taiwan was the Treaty of Shimonoseki. In 1895, the treaty was signed after China lost the First Sino-Japanese War. Many Taiwan separatists like to stress the fact China ceded Taiwan to Japan “in perpetuality”. But another fact should not be overlooked is that Taiwan’s sovereignty belonged to China before 1895.Japan ruled Taiwan for 50 years until 1945, during this period many uprises occured.

    In 1943, Cairo Declaration was signed to establish the framework of post WWII international relations, which stated “The Three Great Allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan. They covet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion. It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the first World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China. “So here the Allies declared the intention for the returned of the sovereignty of Taiwan back to China.

    Again, in 1945 the Potsdam Proclamation declared the terms of unconditional surrender of Japan, which states in Article (8) “The terms of the Cairo declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine. ” So here the return of Taiwan’s sovereignty to China was the condition of Japanese surrender.

    Finally, on 9/2/1945, Japan signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, Which stated in the first paragraph, ” We, acting by command of and in behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions set forth in the declaration issued by the Heads of the Governments of the United States, China, and Great Britain on 26 July 1945 at Potsdam, and subsequently adhered to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.” Now the return of Taiwan’s sovereignty to China is complete. The “in perpetuity” clause in the Treaty of Shimonoseki was nullified by the signing of Japanese Instrument of Surrender. As we should note the sovereignty of Taiwan was returned to the government of Republic Of China (ROC).

    Chinese civil war started in 1946. In 1949, the Communists founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Republic Of China (ROC) left Mainland China for Taiwan in 1950. In the United Nations, the ROC still occupied the seat belongs to China. ROC was the internationally recognized government of China, legally held the sovereignty of China (Mainland+Taiwan). PRC was still a rebel government. This all changed in 1971.

    During late 60’s, a movement started in the UN to make PRC the rightful government of China(Mainland+Taiwan). After a through debate at the UN, as it was recognized by the UN resolutions 1668, 2025, 2159, 2389, 2500, 2642, finally in 1971, the UN passed resolution 2758, which states,

    “Recognizing that the representatives of the Government of the People’s Republic of China are the only lawful representatives of China to the United Nations and that the People’s Republic of China is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council,

    Decides to restore all its rights to the People’s Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it.”

    The debate was sealed—PRC is the rightful government to represent China (Mainland+Taiwan). With the passing of UN resolution 2758 the sovereignty of China (Mainland+Taiwan) has been transferred from ROC to PRC. This is decision still stands valid today. Therefore, Taiwan’s sovereignty belongs to China.

    On current reality of Taiwan strait. The reality of control and occupation of territory itself does not–I repeat—DOES NOT constitute sovereignty. When Saddam’s Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1991, Iraq didn’t have sovereignty of Kuwait. The occupation was illegal, had the world had not the power to expel the Iraqis, the sovereignty of Kuwait still didn’t belong to Iraq, but only to the exiled Kuwaiti government, because no treaty had been signed to cede the territory of Kuwait to Iraq. The UN still recognized the Kuwaiti government, Kuwaiti seat was still held by the Kuwaitis. Once enough military power was assembled to expel the Iraqis, the sovereignty of Kuwait was only materialized on the ground, but it had existed all along.

    It’s the same with Taiwan. It is the UN that gives the sovereignty of Taiwan to China. At this moment, the sovereignty of Taiwan belongs to China(PRC), despite the fact that the jurisdiction of PRC has not reached Taiwan at this point in time. However, since the sovereignty of Taiwan belongs to China/PRC, it is well with in the legal rights of China/PRC to take necessary action to bring Taiwan under its jurisdiction, if PRC ever chooses to do so.

    The essential point here is that jurisdiction is equivalent to peaceful military occupation which doesn’t bring about sovereignty, and the occupation is illegal without sovereignty installed to the occupying authority; however, if an authority legally possesses the sovereignty of a territory, that authority can bring necessary means to remove occupying forces and extend its jurisdiction to such territory.

  30. Steve Says:

    Sovereign means “self-governing”. When I can go to Taiwan and pay with RMB, go through PRC customs and see PRC military bases there, then China will have sovereignty over Taiwan. Until that happens, you’re talking about legality and not sovereignty. Virtually no country recognizes the legality of the ROC, but takes a ‘hands off’ approach per the “One China” policy.

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