Direct China-Taiwan flights begin

China and Taiwan are launching their first regular direct flights since the two sides split in civil war in 1949.

Apart from a few charter flights on major Chinese holidays, travellers have had to fly via a third destination.

The weekend-only non-stop flights are being seen as another step in improving relations between the two sides since Taiwan elected a new president in May.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and in the past has threatened force to reunite it with the mainland.

A total of 36 flights will be launched this weekend, connecting five major cities in China with eight airports in Taiwan.

More than 600 Chinese tourists will be travelling to Taiwan on week-long package trips and they will be given the red carpet treatment, with special receptions, dinners and entertainment programmes.

Their numbers are expected to rapidly increase because Beijing has said it will allow up to 3,000 tourists a day to visit Taiwan from 18 July.

Local businesses are predicting the new arrivals will provide a much-needed economic boost and the government is hoping the direct weekend flights will soon become daily.

While many Taiwanese are excited by the expected influx of Chinese tourists, others are more wary - citing concerns about rude behaviour, cheap spending habits and the potential for political disputes.

The agreements on flights and tourists were signed by negotiators from Taiwan and China last month.

It followed the election of Taiwan's new President, Ma Ying-jeou, who promised voters to boost the island's economy and push for better ties with China.


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