A decade of deadlocks ended on June 10 as talks between representatives from Taiwan and the mainland were held in Beijing. The meetings led to agreements on flights and tourism, as well as plans for future cross-Strait negotiations in Taiwan.
China announced the talks on May 22, barely 48 hours after Ma Ying-jeou was elected president of Taiwan. Five days later, the chairman of Taiwan’s Nationalist Party (KMT), Wu Poh-hsiung, arrived in Nanjing at the head of a 16-member KMT delegation.
Wu’s meeting with Hu Jintao in Beijing on May 28 brought more breakthroughs: Mainland authorities would consider discussing the issue of Taiwan’s participation in international activities, said Hu, including organizations like the WTO. Wu and Hu also agreed to revive talks between Taiwan and the mainland.
The focus of the subsequent June meetings, the first of their kind in more than 10 years, was widely known before they began. Both major goals: the establishment of permanent direct flights between the mainland and Taiwan, and allowing more mainland tourists to visit the island, were achieved. Under the new agreement, an average of 3,000 mainland tourists will be permitted to visit Taiwan daily. The meetings also produced a promise to continue discussions in Taiwan, though no date has been set.
Separate from the talks, Taiwan’s parliament passed legislation allowing the conversion of renminbi on the island to encourage the flow of mainland tourists. Taiwan hopes that the tourists will help revive its service sector.
Buoyed by the official rapprochement, airlines wasted little time in organizing routes and itineraries. The Civil Aviation Administration of China announced that Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines will each run four flights a week to Taiwan starting July 4. Hainan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines will each operate twice-weekly flights.