China and Taiwan connect on new undersea cable project

The cable will run from Tamsui, Taiwan to Fujian, China

North and South Korea could stand to take a page out of the book of other potential warring factions in Asia, China and Taiwan.

While North Korea and the South continue to bicker - most recently over the sinking of a South Korean warship - China and Taiwan have been building closer business ties. One project full of symbolism for the two is an undersea cable project that will link the northern Taiwan town of Tamsui (also called Danshui) to China's Fujian Province.

The DanFu Cable is the first collaboration of its kind between telecommunications companies in Taiwan and China and is aimed at promoting peace as well as prosperity, according to a Taiwanese government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the project. Taiwanese government officials tread carefully with China because the mainland recognizes the island as a province of its own.

Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom and China Telecom on the mainland are in discussions to build the cable system, but it's unclear if work has already started. Neither company would confirm the current status of the project.

The cable appears to be a replacement for a similar project announced last year to connect Xiamen, a city in China's Fujian Province, to Kinmen, a Taiwanese island within sight of China. The new project is far more bold. Kinmen is only a few kilometers away from Xiamen, while the main island of Taiwan is separated from China by around 180-kilometers (112 miles) of sea, the Taiwan Strait.

Data sent across the new cable will ostensibly be open to all but is meant to connect Taiwan more directly to China.

It's a big step. Communications are often viewed as part of national defense due to the danger of wire-tapping and because knocking them out could help win a war. Taiwan and China have been at odds ever since separating amid civil war in 1949, and China maintains a standing threat to attack Taiwan if the island moves towards formal independence.

The two are a leftover dispute from the Cold War, similar to North and South Korea. The Communist Party of China remains firmly in control on the mainland, while Taiwan has democratized. The relationship between the two has grown closer since China opened its doors to business years ago, and more recently, the election of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou. He replaced a pro-independence administration and has undertaken a number of reforms to allow Taiwanese companies to more actively seek business opportunities in China.

(The English name of the undersea cable project was not immediately available, the one used in this story, DanFu Cable, is a direct translation from the Chinese name 淡福海纜).


Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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