China plans cross-strait highways with Taiwan

Beijing drafts plan for symbolic bridge, but lacks approval from Taiwanese authorities

The mainland government has recently approved a national road project that includes two cross-strait highways linking both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

If completed, the project would be a literal and figurative bridge between the mainland and Taiwan and would mark a major milestone in cross-strait relations.

However, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top cross-strait policy planning body, told the South China Morning Post the project had been “unilaterally worked out by mainland authorities“.

“Based on national security concerns and cross-strait interactions, we have not planned anything with such high political sensitivity and complexity,” the council said, spelling out the island’s political and security concerns.

The mainland’s State Council approved the National Highway Network Plan (2013-30) in June after it was proposed by the transport ministry, according to state media.

The China Daily reported last week that one of the proposed highways would start from Beijing and pass through Tianjin , Hebei , Shandong , Jiangsu , Anhui , Zhejiang and Fujian . Another highway would start in Chengdu and pass through Hunan , Jiangxi and Fujian before crossing the strait and ending in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.

Taiwan and the mainland have been military enemies since the end of a civil war in 1949, but relations have warmed since Ma Ying-jeou became president of Taiwan in 2008 and adopted a policy of working with the mainland.

A road link between the two sides would likely not only have political implications, but it would save money on transport, compared with the high price of sea and air freights, economists said.

And despite the relatively warmer ties in recent years, Beijing still considers Taiwan a breakaway province that must eventually be reunified with the motherland.

“This is not the first time that the mainland has unilaterally worked out such a project,” said Wang Kung-yi, a professor with the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei.

“Unilateral as this may be, the mainland has to create projects like this to show that it has the ability and confidence to do so.”

Wang said the DPP was opposed to such constructions, including building a bridge between Xiamen and the Taiwanese-controlled island of Quemoy, which the party fears could play into the mainland’s “reunification scheme“.

Full article: China plans cross-strait highways with Taiwan (South China Morning Post)

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