Taiwan and China launched direct daily passenger flights, new shipping routes and postal links last week for the first time since their civil war in 1949. Many people in overseas have cheered and rejoiced. We have all seen the joyous photos of the shipping vessel leaving Chinese port Tianjin for Taiwan amid a cloud of confetti. This is a big deal.
But let us not forget about the Chinese and Taiwanese who live here in Seattle. Similar to how Vietnam and Korea have been divided over their respective civil wars, the Chinese and Taiwanese have had to deal with having families divided between the island and the mainland.
Since 1949, China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan, stating that it will take Taiwan by force if necessary. Over the last 60 years, tensions have run so high between the two that they have been on the edge of war many times.
We are not here to pick sides on this issue at Northwest Asian Weekly, but we are sympathetic to the families that have been affected and see this direct link as a positive step forward.
For the past 60 years, relatives on both sides have had to use a third party — either Hong Kong or Macau — in order to travel across the 100-mile strait that separates Taiwan from China.
This did not only affected vacationers wishing to visit family, but it affected mail and businesses. That extra stop in Hong Kong not only used up more time, but also cost more money.
China-Taiwan trade was worth $90 billion in 2007, according to official Taiwanese data. There are about a million Taiwanese investors on the mainland. Imagine the extra cost involved in having to go through Hong Kong in order to check on your holdings. This obstacle ended up creating more hostility and misunderstandings above the existing conflict between both sides.
The new links will boost trade between the two sides and have the potential to boost both economies, both cultures, and both education systems, as each side exchanges information and grows stronger.
Additionally, the links can eventually build political trust. We may begin to see a resolution to the China-Taiwan standoff one day.
The only possible victim here would be Hong Kong and Macau because they will no longer be used as a go-between for China and Taiwan. Time will tell how much of a hit this is to their economies. However, we believe they are resilient and will adjust to find another niche.
This is a good beginning.