The miles between Taiwan and mainland China are not many. But, in history the distance across the Taiwan Strait has been huge.
When I lived in Taiwan in the late 1990s, travel to cities in mainland China from Taiwan meant heading to another country or through Hong Kong first. There weren’t any direct flights otherwise. This meant a vacation that might have been an inexpensive and easy trip involved more time and money. As a result, we traveled in Taiwan or headed to Thailand instead.
Today the tides have changed. According to this article, the first direct passenger plane between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (China) happened early this morning. The last such flight was in 1949 after China’s civil war when Chiang Kai-shek headed to Taiwan to set up another government. Along with this first flight will be 16 others over the course of today and several more throughout the week. Recently, there have been special tourist charter flights, but today air traffic has been normalized for the regular traveler who is not part of a special group.
This is big news indeed. It does indicate a more normalized relationship between Taiwan and the mainland, for one thing, and points to the power of the tourist dollar. Tourism between these two countries will economically benefit both. It’s estimated that by 2010 the number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan could triple, according to the president of Taiwan’s China Airlines.
I’m wondering where they will all fit on a weekend? Seriously, there are some places in Taiwan that are already absolutely packed on a holiday.