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China and Taiwan in landmark deal

Chen Yunlin heads the Chinese body which handles relations with Taiwan
Chen Yunlin's visit has prompted small pro-independence protests

China and Taiwan have signed landmark agreements to improve direct trade and transport links, following the highest-level Chinese visit in decades.

The agreements are set to triple the number of weekly direct passenger flights and allow cargo shipments between ports in China and Taiwan.

They also aim to improve the postal service and food safety.

China claims sovereignty over Taiwan though they have been separately governed since 1949.

The agreements were announced on the second day of a five-day visit to Taiwan by Chen Yunlin, China's top official for handling relations with Taiwan.

Previously, sovereignty issues involving vessels and crews forced costly detours through third countries, while China-Taiwan flights were forced to stop in Hong Kong or Macau.

Under the agreements:

  • Direct charter flights will increase from 36 to 108, and can operate daily rather than four days out of seven
  • Routes will be shortened and private business jet flights will be allowed
  • Direct cargo shipments will be allowed between 11 Taiwan sea ports and 63 in China, tax free
  • Sixty direct cargo flights will be allowed per month
  • Direct postal links will be expanded to improve delivery time, currently up to 10 days
  • Food safety alerts between the countries will be set up.

Taiwan has the diplomatic recognition of a handful of states.

But since Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and the defeated Kuomintang fled to Taiwan, China has regarded it as a breakaway province which it has threatened to reunify using force.

Taipei protests

The latest trade agreements come after the two sides held their first, high-level meeting in a decade in June this year, in Beijing.

The improvement in relations follows the election of President Ma Ying-jeou in Taiwan.

Anti-Beijing protester calls for a boycott of Chinese-made products in Taipei on Tuesday


However, Mr Ma's overtures of ending decades of political rivalry with Beijing have sparked fierce protests in Taiwan, including accusations that he is "selling out" to the mainland.

Pro-independence groups staged small protests around Taipei to coincide with Mr Chen's visit, waving flags and banners.

Thousands of police were deployed to ensure Mr Chen's safety, after his deputy Zhang Mingqing was jostled and knocked to the ground by protesters during a visit to Taiwan in October.

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