China Eastern and Xiamen Airlines have cancelled 176 extra flights between the mainland and Taiwan scheduled for the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday — February 16 is the first day of the lunar new year.
- Tens of thousands of people have bought tickets, but Taipei has refused to authorize the flights, according to the BBC.
- Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said it was “denying the airlines permission for the flights because they were flying sensitive new routes in the Taiwan Strait that China began using without consulting Taiwan’s government,” according to (paywall) the New York Times.
- Taiwanese people hoping to get home for the holiday will have have to go via Hong Kong, Macau, or another country — or alternatively, says the BBC, “they could choose a Chinese airline or Taiwanese airline that had not been using the new routes, though tickets would be hard to come by.”
- Xinhua News Agency is not pleased, and devoted the majority of its Taiwan coverage today to complaining about the cancelled flights: in English, and in Chinese (1, 2, 3, 4).
- “Negotiations could still take place if a dispute over air routes unilaterally declared by China is resolved,” said Taiwan’s Transportation Ministry, which also “expressed regret” about the canceled flights, according to Focus Taiwan.
- The Taiwanese government’s point of view on the controversy is explained by Focus Taiwan in a separate article. See also Taipei Times.
“Taiwanese troops staged live-fire exercises simulating an invasions of the island on Tuesday, as mainland China steps up pressure on Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and a row over airline routes escalates,” reports Agence France-Presse.
Take off your tie for informal meetings with the Yankee-whisperer
Yesterday we noted reports that Wang Qishan 王岐山, sidekick of Xi Jinping and feared anti-corruption czar, is back in the Party’s political game, and has been appointed to the national legislature after his retirement. The Wall Street Journal followed up with an article (paywall) that suggests Wang is likely to have a significant role in managing China’s relationship with the U.S. One nice detail:
“When Wang Qishan stepped down as vice premier, he told his American counterparts that he was always available to meet informally—he told them that if they removed their neckties, ipso facto, that made the meeting unofficial and he would be delighted to see them as an old friend,” said Daniel Russel, who served as the top State Department Asia official during President Barack Obama’s second term. He said he heard about that offer directly from Mr. Wang.