TAIPEI: Taiwan’s government said on Thursday (Mar 9) it would allow the resumption of more direct flights to China that had been stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a show of political goodwill to Beijing despite festering military tensions.
Taiwan, which China views as its own territory, currently allows direct flights to only four Chinese cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xiamen – but before the pandemic multiple Chinese cities were connected to the island.
China has been pressing Taiwan to resume the flights, urging against using the pandemic as an excuse for further delay.
Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council said 10 more cities would be allowed to have regular flights, including the economic powerhouses of Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Nanjing, while charter flights would be allowed to another 13.
Council spokesperson Chan Chih-hung told reporters it had considered China’s requests for which cities should see direct flights restored, and had chosen the 10 cities based on the large concentration of Taiwanese businesspeople there.
“China suggested 26 cities, which we also have taken into consideration. This move demonstrates our most sincere goodwill,” he said.
“We also hope to build on the foundation of these resumed flights to gradually increase the exchange of goodwill gestures and cooperative interactions by both sides.”
Taiwan’s government has been trying to resume interactions, especially people-to-people exchanges, with China since lifting strict quarantine rules late last year, with President Tsai Ing-wen saying she hoped this could ease tensions.
However, China still refuses to talk to Tsai, believing she is a separatist. She says only Taiwan’s people can decide its future and strongly disputes China’s sovereignty claims.
Taiwan and China began regular direct flights to each other in 2009, after beginning charter flights in 2003.
Prior to that, there had been no direct flights since 1949 when the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan at the end of a civil war with the communists, aside from occasional hijackings, with most people having to change aircraft in Hong Kong or Macau.