Passengers make their way out of the arrival lounge after arriving on Taiwan's China Airlines (CAL) plane at Beijing Capital International airport January 29, 2005 in Beijing, China. (Photo provided to China Daily)
The Taiwan aviation authorities' refusal to approve 176 extra cross-Straits flights planned by two mainland-based airlines in mid-February shows their irresponsible attitude toward more than 50,000 Taiwan compatriots expected to travel back to Taiwan from the mainland during Spring Festival. That the Democratic Progressive Party blamed Beijing on Monday for the aviation authorities’ decision shows it is trying to trick the mainland into returning to talks without Taiwan recognizing the 1992 Consensus that there is only one China.
But the DPP can never succeed in its evil designs and, instead, end up further worsening cross-Straits ties.
The Tsai Ing-wen-led DPP has cited safety concerns over the M503 air route (which both airlines use) for not giving the green light to the additional flights while ignoring the fact that it has proved safe since being launched in March 2015. The air route is an extension of the existing one Shanghai-Hong Kong flights take, and has been approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization, in order to ease the increasing traffic congestion on the A470 air route that runs along the mainland's eastern coast.
The development of peaceful cross-Straits ties in the eight years before the DPP came to power on the island in May 2016 has greatly increased exchanges between the two sides in various fields, which in turn has raised the demand for more cross-Straits flights. The launching of northbound flights on the M503 air route and three other corridors in January has not only eased the air traffic pressure but also ensured greater flight security.
So Tsai should desist from employing such tricks to prompt the mainland officials to "sit down and talk" with the island’s aviation authorities, and to portray it as the mainland resuming cross-Straits communication without Taiwan upholding the 1992 Consensus.
Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival for Chinese people all over the world. And the mainland's Civil Aviation Administration had arranged 614 extra flights on the appeal of airports in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to ensure Taiwan compatriots living, working or studying on the mainland could return home to celebrate Spring Festival with their family, relatives and friends. But Tsai is still opposed to the additional flights, which will only compromise Taiwan residents’ interests.
Moreover, Tsai and her DPP are wrong to not give the go-ahead to the extra flights. For instance, Taiwan's EVA Air and China Airlines both could earn 10 to 15 percent of their overall revenues from cross-Straits flights, while the proportion of mainland-based airlines revenue from the cross-Straits route will be relatively small.
More importantly, the mainland doesn't need Taiwan's approval to open a new air route across the Straits; in 2015 Taiwan opened a new air route L1, which is similar to M503, without Beijing’s approval.
So the two sides should find an amicable solution to the problem, a solution that will also help Taiwan compatriots to celebrate the Lunar New Year with family and friends. But if Tsai and the DPP insist on playing political games, they will soon find themselves in a more disadvantageous position.
Tsai and her party cannot implore Beijing back to the negotiation table to prevent further deterioration of Taiwan's relations with the mainland, which started when Tsai refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus that there is only one China. The official communication channel was shut down soon after that.
Actually, Tsai and her party have always sought an opportunity to provoke a crisis, for example the M503, and "allure" Beijing to talks, but they have always failed. The
DPP's tricks will never work — rather they will compromise people's interests and prevent many Taiwan business people from returning home for Spring Festival. Tsai and the DPP both should realize that the 1992 Consensus is the only political foundation between the two sides of the Straits, and they have to uphold it if they want cross-Straits talks to resume.
The author Zhu Songling is a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies of Beijing Union University.