Direct flights, student exchanges can boost Taiwan-China relations

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou said Friday that direct flights and student exchanges could promote understanding and reduce tension between Taiwan and China, dpa reported.

Ma made the remarks when receiving an Australian parliamentary delegation attending his inauguration on Tuesday.

"Direct flight can change the mentality of people. Just think, if in future Taiwan students can fly to Shanghai for the weekend and Chinese students can study in Taiwan universities, these exchanges will have a long-term effect because in in 20 or 30 years, there will be schoolmates among Taiwanese and Chinese officials and leaders. That will certainly contribute to across-strait peace," he said.

Ma, from the pro-China Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), won the March 22 presidential election on a pledge to seek peace with China and revive Taiwan's economy. He was sworn in on May 20.

Since his win, Ma has unveiled a series of "opening up" measures to promote exchanges with China, including direct flights, opening the door to Chinese tourists and allowing Chinese students to attend Taiwan universities.

Under the plan, Taiwan and China would launch weekend charter flights on July 4 which will be expanded to daily charter flights and eventually to regular flights.

In the initial stage, these weekend charters flights will only carry Chinese tour groups to Taiwan and back to China. The International Travel Service of China reportedly will send a large inaugural Chinese tour group to Taiwan to mark the launch of charter flights.

Taiwan plans to gradually increase the number of Chinese tourists it receives - an average of 3,000 per day in the first year, 5,000 per day in the second year, 7,000 per day in the third year, 10,000 per day in the fourth year.

China has not announced when Beijing and Taipei will open weekend charter flights, but is expected to finalize the details of charter flights and Chinese tourists' visiting Taiwan during KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung up-coming visit to China.

Wu will visit China on Monday to discuss Ma's peace proposals with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chinese ofificials.

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