The fourth of July. People in the United States celebrate it as the Independance Day (It’s not about defeating aliens, in fact). In this year, this date also marks as significant to people on the other side of the Pacific. Starting from now, there will be regular weekend chartered flights between China and Taiwan after almost six decades of separation. This basically means on weekends from now on, people can take DIRECT flights between China and Taiwan. Up to 1,000 Chinese tourists are able to come to Taiwan for 8-day or 10-day tours each day in the initial stage.
People exchange between these two places has been more and more frequent during the past one or two decades, but in the past, if people in Taiwan want to visit China, they have to transfer at either Hong Kong, Macao, or South Korea. These indirect flights are very time-consuming, to say the least. If you would like to visit Shanghai from Taipei, it would cost you at least seven hours on air travel and transfer in the old mode. Now? It’s said to be less than three hours with direct flights. Some say, half jokingly, it is now easier to have affairs in China, but it is also easier to get caught.
It is estimated that more than one million Taiwanese people are now studying, working or living in China, which is a huge number for a population of 24 million. Direct flights, even only on weekends, will be beneficial in many ways. Take energy for instance. As international oil prices skyrocket, I think direct flights will be energy-saving, compared with indirect ones.
I know some people are against this new policy, based on “national security”, political, or other reasons, such as neko543 (written in Chinese), who believes infecious diseases, including SARS, will come along with Chinese tourists. For those people who are against direct flights according to “national security” reasons, they argue many spies or intelligence agents will penetrate into Taiwan. These concerns do exist, and of course the government has to deal with it after they decide to open up. Of course there are also other people who insisit Taiwan should have no contacts at all with China and call everyone goes there as “traitor” or “betrayer,” but that’s another story.
There are others who have been promoting direct flights vigorously as well. Besides energy reasons, they think bringing in more Chinese tourists will boost the local economy. I don’t know whether this idea will become a reality or not, but I hope with more exchanges in every way, people from the both sides of Taiwan Strait will have better understandings between each other.
Taiwan-China issue is very complicated, especially when there is nationalism or politics involved. There so still many problems after this new policy, but at this point, there is only one thing I care the most: Will air travel to Hong Kong and Macau be cheaper after weekend direct flights?