An airplane full of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) chip-production machinery will leave Wednesday night on a historic trip, the beginning of regular chartered cargo flights between Taiwan and China.
A China Airlines flight will leave Taipei at 10:10 p.m. Wednesday, local time, and is expected to arrive in Shanghai at around 1 a.m., said Johnson Sun, a spokesman for the Taiwanese airline.
Regular flights between Taiwan and enemy China have been banned for the past 57 years due to fears of a military strike using warplanes. A sliver of Pacific Ocean, the Taiwan Strait, has helped protect Taiwan ever since it separated from China in 1949 after a civil war between nationalists and the communists.
Time has smoothed over some of the rough edges of their relationship and business has boomed, with China being the favored destination for Taiwanese investment. The change has forced politicians to ease regulations, and regular chartered cargo flights between Taiwan and China are just the beginning. Business leaders in Taiwan also hope to increase passenger flights, as well as start direct cargo and passenger shipping by sea.
The flight will still have to detour through Hong Kong air space on its way from Taipei to Shanghai, a safeguard against any possible security threat. But the change will still shorten the time it takes to fly cargo across the Taiwan Strait.
China Airlines expects to make two or three more chartered cargo flights between Taiwan and China before the end of July, said Sun.
TSMC said it had no special interest in being part of the historic first chartered flight since regulations changed.
“We just want to transfer some equipment to China,” said J.H. Tzeng, a spokesman for TSMC. The company is increasing the capacity of its chip factory in Shanghai to 30,000 wafers per month, from 20,000 wafers per month currently. Chips are made on disc-shaped silicon wafers, and hundreds or thousands of chips can be made on each wafer, depending on the size and type of chip.
A China Airlines’ Boeing 747-400 freighter will carry TSMC’s equipment.
Taiwan and China have agreed in the past to several chartered passenger flights, normally during major Chinese holidays such as the Lunar New Year. The cargo flight on Wednesday marks the beginning of more normal, regular flights between the two economies, aimed mainly at ensuring that Taiwanese companies can keep their Chinese factories supplied with vital components and other materials, according to officials.
-Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service (Taipei Bureau)
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