Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Will Taiwan be connected to China by a Bridge?

Will Taiwan’s Quemoy Islands be connected to China?

By Kevin Stoda, Matsu Archipelago (R.O.C.)

Taiwan owns several different archipelagos off the coast of mainland China. Since 2008-2009, both China and Taiwan have officially shown strong interest in connecting the two nation states physically with a bridge from the Taiwan’s mian Kinman (Quemoy) Islands to the island of Lieyu (Lesser Kinman) to an island that currently belongs to the Peoples Republic of China (mainland China) but has been administered by Taiwanese authorities for 7 decades or more.
According to Wikipedia writers (who tend to be overwhelmingly from mainland China) Lieyu Township “is located to the Southwest of main Kinmen Island in between main Kinmen and Xiamen. It is situated outside the mouth of mainland China's Jiulong river and inside Xiamen's harbor. The distance from mainland China at the closest point is only about 5000 meters and is located in a very strategic position. The People's Republic of China claims Kinmen County (Jinmen County in pinyin) as part of its Quanzhou prefecture in Fujian province. The island is currently administered by the government of the Republic of China.”,_Kinmen
“Kinmen's economy is mainly based on tourism and services due to its proximity to mainland China. A 5.4 km (3.4 mi) bridge connecting Kinmen Island (Greater Kinmen) and Leiyu is planned to be completed by June 2016, estimated to cost NT$7.5 billion (US$250 million). It is expected to integrated local tourism resources and the bridge's 1.4 km (0.87 mi) main body will have the largest span in the world when completed.”
The bridge project had initially been set to be completed by 2016—and it will be the first actual physical bridge between the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China. Most local residents welcome the building of the bridge. There are also talks of brining a railroad down to Kinman from mainland China in the future, too.
Interestingly, although the peoples of the Kinman Islands do not really ever want to become part of communist China, they do welcome trade and tourism from China. Moreover, the people of Kinman have historically always voted with the Kuomintang Party, which until the 1990s had favored giving the Kinman islands back to the People’s Republic of China at some future date.
However, fears that the standard of living in Kinman would decrease after such a unification have put that idea to rest for now. Moreover, the process of democratization has improved much faster in Taiwan than on the mainland, therefore, local resistance throughout Kinman to such a handover—even at a future date—remains very remote. Finally, the central Taiwanese government has significantly increased the political decision-making powers of local authorities over the past two decades—leaving almost all negotiations of such a future unification of Kinman to the mainland up to the voters of Kinman themselves.
I currently live on Beigan Island in the Matsu archipelago. Beigan is only 9.3 km. from mainland China. Neighboring Nangan Island is even closer. Perhaps these islands, too, will one day reach out across the Taiwan strait and link the People’s Republic to the Republic of China.



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