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UPDATED: January 4, 2009 NO. 2 JAN. 8, 2009
Direct Links Mean Direct Benefits

After 30 years of negotiations and preparation, direct air, shipping and postal links between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan formally began on December 15, 2008. The move received worldwide praise, showing that the peaceful development of cross-Taiwan Straits relations has become an irreversible trend.

The "three direct links" of postal, trade and air and shipping services were first proposed by the mainland 30 years ago as part of the efforts to end the hostility on both sides of the Taiwan Straits after the civil war in the first half of last century. Since the 1990s, trade links between the two sides have strengthened remarkably, with Taiwan business investment on the mainland seeing explosive growth and expansion. The realization of the "three direct links," though coming later than expected due to opposition and obstruction by pro-"independence" forces on the island, will do much to promote cross-Straits exchanges and cooperation.

Nowadays, the volume of trade between the mainland and Taiwan is about $130 billion, while annual cross-Straits travels exceed $35 billion. The launch of direct air and shipping services alone is estimated to save more than $1.4 billion for transportation operators and travelers each year.

The "three direct links" will reform the model of mainland-Taiwan economic and trade cooperation. Over the past decade, a lot of local Taiwan businesses and multinationals, hi-tech companies in particular, have moved their manufacturing units off the island in hopes of reducing operational costs, of which 80 percent were relocated to the mainland. Inconvenient transportation in the past, however, sometimes affected their delivery efficiency. Since it is now possible to travel back and forth across the Straits in a single day, the majority of Taiwan-based companies can retain their R&D centers and other core departments on the island where they can find workers more suitable to their corporate cultures. In the meantime, the mainland's manufacturing sector will be able to maintain its competitiveness, which is significant for local economic growth and the expansion of the job market.

Closer mainland-Taiwan relations can also help both sides effectively cope with the spreading global economic crisis. For example, more mainlanders are expected to visit Taiwan after direct cross-Straits air and shipping services make such travels cheaper, thus giving a strong boost to the performance of local transportation and travel sectors.

The year 2008 saw great progress in cross-Straits ties. Besides the start of the "three direct links," landmark events in December alone also included the mainland's pledge of 130 billion yuan ($19 billion) in loans for Taiwan companies and the arrival of a pair of goodwill pandas in the island.

It is true that people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits are not familiar with each other in many fields after nearly 60 years of separation. However, growing economic interdependence over the past 20 years has increased their common interests and enhanced mutual trust. This process will accelerate as a result of breakthroughs such as the launch of the "three direct links" and initially lays the foundation for overall integration across the Straits.

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