Beijing (AsiaNews) – This morning daily direct flights between China and Taiwan began, for the first time in almost 60 years. Direct shipping transport and postal services across the Taiwan Strait also started. The first flight departed the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen for Taiwan at 7:20 am, with another one taking off from Shanghai 40 minutes later. A commercial flight from the Taiwanese capital of Taipei also departed for Shanghai.
Until a few months ago, flights shipping and postal services could not travel directly between the two, but forced to stop over in a third port (Hong Kong and Macao, for the planes; Korea Japan, Hong Kong for shipping). Following the election of current Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, weekend direct flights resumed leading to direct daily flights.
The agreement between Taipei and Beijing allows for 108 flights per week. According to the Taiwanese Minister for Transport, direct links will help Taipei save up to 3 billion new Taiwanese dollars (circa 70 million euros) a week for airlines and passengers; circa 35 million for sipping companies.
Ma Ying-jeou has succeeded in breaking the decade’s long deadlock by taking more moderate positions than her predecessor, Chen Shuibian, such as not demanding future independence for Taiwan and seeking increased economic ties to aid the island and China through the present financial crises. But critics of Ma’s moves fear that Taiwan will become increasingly dependent on China, loosing its autonomy step by step.
China continues to keep hundreds of missiles pointed towards the island and in 2005 passed an anti-secession law allowing for the use of military force should any Chinese region seek to break away. Taiwan, the seat of the Republic of China, claims de-facto independence since ’49, when Chiang Kaishek sought refuge on the island, an independence today recognised by 23 states. China considers Taiwan a “rebel island” that over the course of the past 60 years has formed a democratic parliament and a free way of life.