The Cross Strait Relationship Continues to Improve

It began with direct flights between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. As a result, flying from Beijing or Shanghai to Taipei is now as easy as flying to Hong Kong. Travelers must still pass through immigration, as is the case with Hong Kong, but there’s no longer the need to get to Taipei indirectly from another city in Asia. When I visited my client in Taipei last week, I boarded the Air China flight in Beijing at 8:00 am and was on the way to my meeting in Taipei by noon. A 1:00 pm Air China flight two days later returned me to Beijing in plenty of time for dinner.

In yet another sign of improving relations between China and Taiwan, Beijing and Taipei are now make it even easier for residents of the PRC and the island of Taiwan to visit each other and see what life on the other side of the Taiwan Straits is like.

On Tuesday, May 4, the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association unveiled a 10-employee office in Beijing, the island’s first official presence in China’s capital since the two sides split in 1949. According to an agreement reached between the two countries in 2008, China reciprocated by opening an office in Taipei three days later. On Friday, China’s Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association opened its first office in Taipei with three employees. Two or three more employees are expected to be added by the end of the year.

According to data from the Taiwan government, approximately four million people from Taiwan visit China annually, while about one million from China visited the island in 2009. Along with improved business ties between China and Taiwan, tourism will now benefit further from Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou’s active campaign to improve relations with China since taking office in May 2008.

The improved cross-straits relationship is important for Americans doing business in China, because Taiwan, and its relationship with the United States, has always been a flashpoint for the Sino-American relationship. With China and Taiwan coming together peacefully, as many predicted they would if left alone to resolve their differences, one more issue is taken off the table as a point of contention between the world’s two leading economic powers.

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