July 4th: Taiwan welcomes cross straits direct flights – but what about all the other problems?

While America celebrates the 4th of July, Taiwan is celebrating its own July 4th – the first direct (legal) cross-straits flights since 1949. Ma Ying-Jeou’s new government recently announced the easing of cross-straits relations, and has brought in something of a warming of cross-straits ties after years of stalling by the previous Chen and Lee administrations.

While it’s difficult to know what the upshot of this will be, it’s a welcome boost for tourist-related businesses in Taiwan, and is broadly a positive development in easing the political strains across the straits. In fact, just earlier this week, exchange controls on RMB (previously unavailable on Taiwan) were eased though not removed entirely.

But will this help to end Taiwan’s current international isolation? I’m afraid that won’t happen any time soon. European governments, including Britain’s, have slowly been upgrading their facilities and services on the island, but a full embassy they are not, and many embassy functions are simply not carried out.

There was a recent announcement that AIT (American Institute in Taiwan) was planning to move its base to Neihu, and plans were announced for garrison quarters in the new buildings. This however was quickly played down; but it’s clear that many western governments are now covertly laying the groundwork to establish diplomatic ties at some point. Such ties remain over the horizon for the time being.

Check out the BBC slideshow.

So this week’s events are just the next step in a long road towards sorting out the consequences of the Chinese Civil War. I won’t be making any bold predictions on peace talks, full-recognition, or any of a myriad of on-the-back-burner issues for quite some time.