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Taiwan and mainland China have finally been joined by an underwater fibre optic cable.

China claims Taiwan as an integral part of the Middle Kingdom But it has in all practicality been a separate and independent country since Chiang Kai-shek led the remnants of the Nationalist Army there after their defeat by Mao Zedong’s communists in1949.

Then there was a standoff for 50 years. Taiwan stopped claiming to be the real China many years ago (for decades members of mainland constituencies sat in Taiwan’s parliament, but the People’s Republic has never stopped claiming that Taiwan is a “renegade province.”

Direct flights between the two countries began only in 2005. China has toned down its rhetoric about reunification in recent years, and economic pragmatism and cooperation have replaced the former confrontation. The relationship between the two countries has now taken a major step forward with the commissioning  of an undersea fibre optic communications cable directly linking the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. It is the first communications cable linking both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The Xinhua news agency reports that the link means mainland-Taiwan communications will no longer rely solely on international cables. The move has been widely hailed by the telecommunications community on both sides as "a significant step forward in promoting cross-Strait peace and development."

The cable connects Fuzhou, the capital of China’s Fujian Province, and the university town of Tamsui in in northern Taiwan. It is 270 kilometres long, the shortest distance between the mainland and Taiwan. Xinhua reports the “Cross-Strait Fiber-Optic 1 cable" was jointly constructed by mainland telecommunications companies China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom and Taiwan-based FarEasTone, Taiwan Mobile, Taiwan International Gateway Corporation and ChungHwa Telecom. Cable-laying work began only two months ago.

Ceremonies were held simultaneously in Taipei and Fuzhou to mark the official launch of operations. According to executives of Taiwanese telecommunications firms, the cable is significant in promoting exchanges between China and Taiwan by providing a more convenient and more stable means of communication.

They also said it would bring new business opportunities to the Taiwan's telecommunications sector.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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