China and Taiwan will add 100 direct passenger flights and 20 more cargo flights a week to keep up with two-way trade worth an annual $109 billion and growing since hostilities began to ease in 2008, officials said on Monday.
A weekend deal that boosts direct flights to a total 370 and cargo flights to 48 from mid-June reflects increases in Chinese tourists as well as growing demand by Taiwanese investors bound for China, the island’s civil aviation authority said.
Markets are expected to look favourably at the flights as a sign that business between the political rivals of 60 years is picking ahead of a free trade-style deal due to be signed next month.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island under mainland rule, by force if necessary.
The two sides had banned direct flights on security concerns for decades but began opening routes from 2005 as Taiwan investors sighted economic powerhouse China as a manufacturing and sales hot spot despite political tensions.
“New flights will be a reflection of economic interaction, as for Taiwan certainly China is one of its fastest growing markets,” said David Cohen, director of Asian economic forecasting with Action Economics in Singapore.
“It does appear to be one of the fastest growing relationships anywhere on the planet,” he said.
China, for its part, seeks to help Taiwan’s $390 billion economy as part of a charm offensive that it hopes will lure the island into political unification.
Negotiators meeting in Taipei over the weekend also agreed to open six new airports for passenger or cargo flights, including one near central Shanghai seen boosting tourist traffic.
(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie)