Flights pact is good for ties with Beijing and shows its pragmatism, say analysts Taiwan has hailed as positive for relations with Beijing the historic agreement reached yesterday for two-way cross-strait flights at Lunar New Year. Commentators said it could have significant benefit for political contacts. Barely a month ago, hardly any Taiwanese - not even the head of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) - had thought it possible. Responding to a press query last month, MAC chairman Joseph Wu Jau-shieh admitted that the prospects for charter flights to bring Taiwanese businessmen home for the holiday looked grim. He was referring to remarks by mainland officials in November and December that talks on charter flights would only be possible if Taiwan observed the 'one China' principle. This was said against the backdrop of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's active promotion of his campaign for a stronger Taiwanese identity for the island - part of his attempt to gain the votes of pro-independence hardliners - which infuriated mainland officials. But an announcement in Beijing on January 3 by the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office changed everything. Beijing confirmed for the first time the charter-flight issue was negotiable - with no precondition that it must be discussed under the principle of 'one China'. Taiwanese media said US concerns about cross-strait tension were a factor in the decision. Mr Wu said the mainland had tried to use the charter-flight decision to ease resentment over the planned anti-secession law. 'It is their typical two-faced, stick-and-carrot tactic,' he said. 'On the one hand, it is rigid [towards] Taiwan politically and, on the other, it is easy-going towards Taiwanese people,' he said. Analysts concurred. 'The charter-flight operation came after the announcement of the [mainland's] planned anti-secession law and defence white paper,' said Professor Yang Kai-huang, director of the mainland study centre at Chung Hua University. 'Since Hu Jintao took full control of the mainland, there has not been any major change in principle [in] policy towards Taiwan, but there has been an obvious change in the method' of implementing the policy, he said. He said Mr Hu 'separates civilians from government', meaning he is pragmatic in dealing with Taiwanese civilians but tough in dealing with Taiwan's government. Analysts agreed the charter-flight agreement was significant. 'It will contribute to the easing of the strained cross-strait situation,' said Byron Weng Sung-jan, a professor at National Chi Nan University and a presidential adviser. Chang Wu-yueh, professor at the Mainland Study Institute of Tamkang University, said it was significant not only because mainland planes would be allowed to fly to Taiwan for the first time in 55 years, but because it paved the way for a peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship with the chance for further talks. MAC Vice-chairman Chiu Tai-san, one of the few officials who believed the charter flights would be possible, yesterday described the establishment of the agreement as a positive move 'that can help bring improvement of cross-strait relations one step further'.