The first regular charter flights between China's mainland and Taiwan began Friday in a sign of warming relations between Beijing and Taipei.
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Cross-straits talks between the two delegations began in 1993, a year after China and Taiwan informally agreed that the two sides belonged to "one China." They did not, however, specify what that meant, and both sides were free to use differing interpretations.
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Taiwan and China have launched direct daily flights and cargo shipping, the first time in nearly 60 years that such direct transport links been allowed.
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The opening up of Taiwan and China's airspace and territorial waters to each other will not only cut travel and shipping times, but the costs of doing business between the two key trading partners, which are currently suffering from the global economic downturn.
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Unlike his predecessor, President Ma does not advocate independence for Taiwan , and prefers to focus on improving relations with China, as a way of reviving the flagging economy and building long-term security and peace with China.
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Supporters of warmer ties with China see the lifting of transportation restrictions as a positive step towards ending decades of hostilities.
Critics, however, fear Taiwan will become too economically dependent on China and lose its sovereignty. Some of them participated in violent protests last month.
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China has reacted warmly and although the mainland still claims sovereignty over the self-governed island, both have agreed to set aside thorny political disputes to focus on trade. The two sides signed a pact last month to open up the direct links.
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The flight time is now cut by an hour because the planes are no longer required to fly south through Hong Kong's airspace, a detour Taiwanese authorities had insisted on for security concerns. Cargo ships were required to stop at the Japanese island of Okinawa northeast of Taiwan.
The direct services will save costs and generate new business as both Taiwan and China feel the pinch of the global economic slowdown, said Chiang Pin-kung, head of Taiwan's semiofficial Straits Exchange Foundation.
"This will contribute greatly to our economic development," said Chiang, who signed the air and shipping pacts with his Chinese counterpart, Chen Yunlin.
With annual bilateral trade at about US$100 billion, Taiwanese businesses have pushed for years to end the ban on direct links across the 100-mile (160-kilometer) wide Taiwan Strait.
In Beijing, Xu Lirong, executive vice president of the China Ocean Shipping Group Company, said the direct shipping links will cut the cost of the company's related freight business by 30 percent.
Xinhua News Agency quoted him as saying it would "bring new vigor to economic and trade ties" between the two sides.
Taiwan imposed the ban on regular links six decades ago. Former President Chen attempted to end it but failed to strike a deal with the mainland because of its deep distrust of him.
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After 60 years, direct flights and shipping have finally resumed. No matter the political position of anyone minus the irrelevant hyper partisans, this is a good thing.
Instead of having to fly through HK or Japan and wasting valuable time and money it will be a plain simple non-stop direct flight.
This move will save billions of wasted dollars and most importantly, faciliatate in bringing about easeing of tensions, mis-understandings and various other conflicts between the two nations by enhancing the communication between normal every day people; thus bringing down hostilities and the potential shoot out between the two states.