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Calls for exchanges high across Straits as mainland urges DPP to resume direct flights

《环球时报·英文版》 2023-02-02

With the stabilized COVID-19 situation across the Taiwan Straits, the Chinese mainland has urged the Taiwan authorities to further restore direct flights across the Straits in a bid to better deliver benefits to compatriots, according to a mainland spokesperson on Wednesday.

This reflects the high anticipation of people across the Straits for personnel exchanges, observers said.

To restore direct flights would be a milestone to greatly facilitate the circulation of goods and people exchanges and cooperation across the Straits, which is especially conducive to the recovery of the local economy and people's livelihoods, as the island's economy remains under pressure, said mainland observers.

But they said that the process of restoring direct flights is likely to be very "bumpy and tortuous" given that the Tsai administration has been blocking cross-Straits exchanges during recent years.

As the COVID-19 situations on the mainland and in Taiwan have both stabilized, it is an opportune time to further restore the normal operations of flights between the two sides, said Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, citing correspondence from the mainland's aviation authorities to the Taiwan side.

"We hope that Taiwan can work together with the mainland for the resumption of normal cross-Straits flights," she said, suggesting that the resumption of direct flights to 16 mainland destinations should be prioritized, including South China's city of Guangzhou, based on the requests of Taiwan compatriots.

"We hope Taiwan authorities will make pragmatic and continuous efforts to help resume the normal operations of direct cross-Straits flights, and deliver benefits to compatriots on both sides of the Straits," Zhu said.

Many people who have insight into the Taiwan island have urged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities to cooperate with Beijing to further resume personnel exchanges and serve the people's interests.

"Please give peace across the Taiwan Straits a chance and Taiwan a way to live in the future," Hung Hsiu-chu, former chairwoman of the Kuomintang in Taiwan, said on Facebook on Saturday. She said that the cold winter of the epidemic has dissipated and the cross-Straits deadlock should be eased as well.

She hopes the DPP authorities will stop using all means to obstruct cross-Straits exchanges and stop ignoring the rights and interests of Taiwan businesspeople.

There are millions of Taiwan businessmen and compatriots on the mainland, and they need a peaceful and stable environment across the Straits, Hung said after she visited Xiamen for discussions with Taiwan businessmen during the Spring Festival holidays.

Wang Kwo-tsai, senior official of the transportation and communications authority in the island, said on Tuesday that the island has set a goal of attracting 6 million overseas travelers this year, 1 million of whom would be mainland residents, Taiwan media reported.

On the same day, Taiwan vowed to cancel PCR sampling for COVID-19 tests from inbound passengers from the mainland as of February 7, but arrivals still need to undergo a seven-day period of self-initiated prevention, according to the Taiwan health department.

A Taiwan resident surnamed Chu who travels between Shanghai and Taipei for business told the Global Times that, for Taiwan residents living in Shanghai, they can take direct flights to the island. But it will be good news for residents in other cities, especially for those involved in cross-Straits marriages, Chu said.

Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Chengdu have always supported direct flights, but the number is limited and fares are high. For example, the round trip between Shanghai and Taipei costs about 3,600 yuan ($534), Chu said.

The cross-Straits shipping and flight services will facilitate exchanges between people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, based on the one-China principle. However, since cross-Straits relations took a turn for the worse after Tsai Ing-wen took office in the island, coupled with the pandemic, there are only four direct flight destinations on the mainland, and most flights are basically suspended,Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

To resume direct flights will surely signal the easing and improvement of cross-Straits relations, and show that the mainland hopes to continue to promote the integrated development of the two sides, the observer noted.

However, considering the past moves by the DDP authorities to block cross-Straits exchanges, it is likely to be a "bumpy and tortuous" process to resume direct flights to the 16 mainland destinations, Xin pointed out.

To restore direct flights requires goodwill and support from the mainland and cooperation from the Taiwan authorities. But Tsai has always been stigmatizing and demonizing exchanges between the two sides as the re-warming of cross-Straits ties goes against her intention to seek "Taiwan independence."

Ferries between Taiwan's outlying island of Kinmen and the mainland city of Xiamen restarted on January 7 after a hiatus of almost three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the current resumption of services with Kinmen and Matsu has been scheduled to last only until February 6, and it's restricted to residents of the two small Taiwan islands, mainland spouses and students studying in Kinmen, media reports said.