Pros and Cons of ‘Three Direct Links’ Between Mainland China and Taiwan

December 26, 2008 Updated: December 27, 2008

On December 15, the “Three Direct Links” was officially restored between mainland China and Taiwan in an agreement between the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). The three links refer to direct postal services, trade and transportation across the strait, which was severed in 1949. The pros and cons of restoring the links remain to be seen.

On the very morning that the “Three Direct Links” became effective, China’s Shenzhen Airlines and Eastern Airlines launched their first flights to Taipei within one hour, reported BBC. Meanwhile, Taiwan-based TransAsia Airways took its flight toward Shanghai.

With the now open air and sea transportation, the freighter “Xinyantai” from China Shipping Company set off on the same day from Tianjin Harbor to Taiwan’s Keelong Harbor.

Straight Route Shortens Travel Distance

The direct transportation allowed by the “Three Direct Links” opens up direct routes for transporting goods. This eliminates third portal cities and dramatically reduces travel time. The air travel time from Shanghai to Taipei is reduced by over an hour, and the sea travel time is reduced by eight hours.

According to the agreement signed on November 4 by SEF and ARATS, more direct flights will gradually expand to more cities in mainland China, with the exceptions of Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Xiamen.

Direct postal services for mail and package between the straits will use flight or freight. However, the service won’t be available until next February because the related computer programs are still in testing phase.

Hong Kong Anticipates Losing A Million Taiwanese Travelers Annually

Hong Kong government and non-governmental organizations all anticipate that number of Taiwanese travelers transferring in Hong Kong to greatly decline, and Hong Kong’s position will be once again weakened.

It is estimated that Hong Kong will lose a million travelers from Taiwan a year. Statistics showed that almost three million Taiwanese transferred in Hong Kong last year,  with over eleven percent of them being airline passengers. There were also 280,000 tons of air freights going though Hong Kong, accounting for over seven percent of the total airport freight for the entire year.

However, Hong Kong Trade Development Council only estimates a reduction of five percent of Taiwanese travelers and 20 percent of air freight.

Taiwan Vice President: Beneficial to Tourism Development

Vice president Xiao Wangchang commented that the most important benefit from the three links is to make Taiwan the center of the Asia-pacific region, especially in tourism, according to Central News Agency.

Stimulated by the three direct links, Taiwan’s stock market soared on December 15, followed by mild stock movements.

Scholars pointed out that, the three direct links will bring lots of business opportunities to Taiwan, but also bring about some negative impacts. For instance, Taiwan’s manufacturing industry might become bankrupt due to mainland’s overwhelming cost advantage and market superiority.

Democratic Progressive Party Questions Legitimacy of ‘Three Links’

The Democratic Progressive Party published a statement that accused the Ma Yingjiu administration of violating the law by launching the three direct links. The statement implied that the administration ignored congress watch and pubic opinions, and will most certainly incur irreparable harm to Taiwan.

DPP legislator Huang Weizhe questioned the legitimacy of the agreement’s “becoming effective automatically,” because the agreements are still waiting for the legislative body’s vote. Wang said it’s absurd that the administrative department can sign an agreement with a foreign government that can become effective in just three days.