The two sides of the Taiwan Strait appear to have worked out their differences and reached a consensus on the cross-strait chartered flights for the Lunar New Year. This all takes place against the backdrop of the race between the opposition and ruling political parties trying to claim credit and to flirt with Beijing, as well as China's full blown campaign of unification propaganda.
The chartered flights have seemingly become a reality. In view of the guiding principles proposed by the two sides in dealing with the chartered flights, the flights are apparently exceeding the simple purpose of servicing the Taiwanese businesspeople traveling home for the Lunar New Year holiday. They have become a form of cross-strait direct links, with significant negative impacts on the economy, national security and safety.
The surprising things is this -- the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) smuggled this form of cross-strait direct links through legal loopholes without any authorization, followed by the Mainland Affairs Council's (MAC) confused support. All these made possible this trial run for cross-strait direct links.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) -- which typically applauds Taiwan consciousness and localization -- has not only failed to scrutinize the cause of its failure to obtain a legislative majority in last month's elections, but has also backed down from its stance on cross-strait policy in order to ease tensions.
In order to make possible the chartered flights for the Lunar New Year, the DPP has caved in to the demands of the other side and no longer insists on the principles that negotiations can only take place on a government-to-government level and from equal and independent sovereign status -- totally disregarding the dignity, integrity and safety of Taiwan in the process. Such practices of the DPP government are truly unacceptable and must be condemned. The cross-strait chartered flights this year will be totally different from those in 2003, which were based on the principle that the flights must be "one way [from Taipei to Shanghai only], indirect and interrupted by transit stops."
The restricted opening up of cross-strait links was indeed purely for the purpose of helping Taiwanese businesspeople in China. However, China has always been good at the art of negotiation and at making breakthroughs on issues one by one and one after another. The chartered flights in 2003 created a precedent and was a breakthrough that allowed China to then push for cross-strait direct links.
For the Lunar New Year flights, China is asking a lot. It wants"mutual participation, two-way direct flights, passenger boarding on both sides and multiple flight departure points." It has asked that Taiwan open up multiple airports for the flights, and also that the flights be open to anyone who holds "Taiwan compatriot travel document" issued by the Chinese government. If China gets its way, in the future we will frequently see Chinese aircraft traveling between major airports of Taiwan and China. The picture will most certainly create the illusion of cross-strait direct links in the mind of the international community. With this kind of close exchange, why should the international community worry about Taiwan's safety anymore?
To Taiwan, now that traveling across the Strait will be so convenient for Taiwanese businesspeople in this case, there may be demands for a similar convenience on all other holidays. Psychologically, the people of Taiwan may grow accustomed to this kind of exchange and forget completely about the more than 600 Chinese missiles targeting Taiwan. Under the circumstances, can Taiwan withstand the pressure and the temptation of formal cross-strait direct links anymore?