Amid great media hoopla surrounding the visits of two top Taiwanese opposition leaders to mainland China in recent weeks a simple truth has been forgotten. It took both leaders, Lien Chan and James Soong, the better part of a working day to complete a journey that could have been managed in just a couple of hours had they flown directly from Taipei to their mainland destinations.
The continuing ban on direct flights across the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and the mainland takes its greatest toll on Taiwanese working on the mainland who are forced to take a circuitous route through Hong Kong or Macau whenever they need to travel to or from home. The result: Taiwan is suffering a brain drain as talent moves to where the best opportunities are. And that is not the only thing leaking out of Taiwan. Official restrictions on the free flow of capital to the mainland have, ironically, had their greatest impact in discouraging Taiwanese businesses from repatriating profits and capital. Money finds its way out of Taiwan to the mainland but then does not return.