China-Taiwan Charter Flights to Begin

March 19, 2007 at 10:56 am | Posted in China, Chinese Civil War, 經濟, 经济, Economics, News, Politics, Taiwan, 台灣, 台湾, 政治, 新聞, 新闻, 中国, 中國 | Leave a comment

lianganbaoji

china-air

Mar. 19 2007 Forbes/AP

China announced a new round of charter flights with Taiwan on Monday in an effort to temporarily skirt a ban on direct transport links between the historical rivals.

Eleven Chinese and Taiwanese carriers will fly 42 round trips through April 8 to coincide with the traditional grave sweeping festival, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Flights will service Taiwan’s capital Taipei and southern metropolis of Kaohsiung, and Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xiamen on the Chinese side. The flights were agreed to last year during negotiations between private aviation associations, required because China refuses to recognize Taiwan’s government or deal with it directly.

Taiwan has banned direct scheduled commercial flights since the sides split amid civil war in 1949, but direct charter flights have been gradually expanding to cater to the needs of Taiwanese residents of the mainland, although they remain confined to major holidays – including last month’s Lunar New Year. The charters are off-limits to non-Taiwanese.

Taiwan’s government is considering an expansion of charters to allow Chinese tourists to fly directly to the island, instead of by way of third countries as they are required to do so now.

Under pressure from the domestic tourist industry, Taiwan has been looking for way to expand the number of Chinese tourists allowed to visit the island each year to 365,000, almost 10 times the current number.

Contrary to the article, the ban on direct flights across the Taiwan Strait is actually a two-way ban by both Taiwan and China. Nowadays, China’s ban on direct flights serves no practical purpose to its security. On the other hand, with China’s growing military strength and its increasing threat to Taiwan, the island has valid reasons to be concerned of its national security if it were to lift its ban on direct flights.

However, the lack of direct flights is taking its toll on Taiwan’s economy by burdening Taiwanese businesses with unnecessary costs, and forcing them to forgo potential opportunities. For example, Cathay Pacific derives roughly 10-20% of its revenues from the Taipei-Hong Kong route, which predominantly serves Taiwanese passengers and cargo flying to and from China in the absence of direct flights. If the bans from both sides were to be lifted, Cathay would no longer hold the competitive advantage and would be forced to give up market share to Taiwan-based airlines such as China Airlines and Eva Airways.

Realistically, even if Taiwan were to lift its ban, there are still many obstacles that must be resolved before direct flights can commence across the Taiwan Strait. Aside from the whole national security issue, the two sides also have to consider how direct flights would be perceived by the international community. For example, would cross strait direct flights be “international” or “domestic” flights? Unsurprisingly, China insists on labeling them as domestic, whereas Taiwan considers them international.

My proposal: Flights going to Taiwan would leave from the domestic terminals of Chinese airports, but arrive at the the international terminal of the Taoyuan International Airport. After their arrival, the passengers would still be required to go through immigration and customs just like any other international flights. Problem solved.

oldna

Of course, nothing is ever that simple when it comes to China-Taiwan relations. Everything has a hidden meaning, and almost all the “unofficial” negotiations revolve around minimizing the use of words, images, and symbols that have the potential of being used for propaganda purposes by either side. For example, judging from the picture directly above, which depicts the old exterior design of China Airlines’ aircrafts, would China have allowed the upcoming charter flights across the Taiwan Strait if this design was still in use?

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