AIR Macau's chief executive came very close to mocking China yesterday. At a press conference to reveal details of an important commercial air service agreement secured with Taiwan, Ng Kian-wah all but said any complaints by the mainland over the deal were irrelevant. Virtually scoffing at the significance of it, which for the first time allows the same aircraft flying from Taiwan to travel onwards to China with a short stopover in Macau and the formalities of different flight numbers and boarding passes, Mr Ng took a big risk. Given that Air Macau will be flying to several mainland destinations when it starts commercial operations on November 9 - and that the agreement secured with Taiwan straddles the 1999 handover of the Portuguese enclave to China - the smart thing would have been to take a more diplomatic line. But Mr Ng has to be admired for his audacity, as his obvious frustration can be viewed as a symbol of the ridiculousness of the situation that still exists between China and Taiwan on air services. Every year, scores of Taiwanese tourists travel to China with no entry problems other than having to make a time-consuming stopover in Hong Kong. The reason is direct flights and shipping services between the two points are banned. Taiwan even has a law against them. But these laws are long out of date, and it is high time they are removed. Taiwanese flag-carrier China Airlines (CAL) - which just dropped the island's flag so that it can keep operating to Hong Kong after the takeover in 1997 - freely admits to having made 'commercial contacts' with mainland airlines, airports and travel agents in the event that non-stop flights are approved. Seven mainland carriers recently teamed up with CAL and Hong Kong Dragon Airlines to provide a one-time check-in services for passengers flying to China via Hong Kong. That was seen as yet another sign that direct flights between the two points are not far off. But this has been long speculated. While it would be wrong to trivialise the sensitivity of relations between Taiwan and China, it must be said it is high time juvenile politics are separated from commercial operations. If competing airlines can work with one another, the governments should too.