The first regular, direct flight from China to Taiwan has landed at Taipei’s airport.
Wang Yi, China’s top official said it signalled “a new start” in exchanges, as it’s been nearly 60 years since a plane came from China to Taiwan.
Since 1949, travellers have been forced to fly via a third destination, as the two sides were ruled by separate governments.
Since May, when Taiwan’s new president, Ma Ying-jeou, took office, ties have significantly improved between the two countries.
The new president promotes stronger economic ties with China, that has threatened force if Taiwan moves towards formal independence, because China sees it as a breakaway province.
Signed last month, the agreements on flights is seen as a big step towards improved cross-strait relations.
Five major cities in China will be connected with eight airports in Taiwan, though the new flights will take place from Friday to Monday only.
36 cross-strait flights will be launched this weekend, and the first was the China Southern Airlines flight, coming from the southern city of Guangzhou.
The plane carried about 250 passengers, including 100 tourists from the mainland, and was met with a traditional lion dance and a water sprinkling ceremony.
Company chairman Liu Shaoyong flew the plane over. In Taipei, he told journalists that “this is a sacred moment. The two sides of the strait are like members in one family”.
And a Taiwan-based China Airlines flight, with Taiwanese tourists was going to Shanghai, at the same time as the China Southern flight was travelling to Taipei.
Some of the 600 Chinese tourists travelling on week-long package trips were included in the first arrivals in Taiwan.
All have been given the red carpet treatment, such as special receptions, dinners and entertainment programmes.
Like the deal on flights, the numbers of tourists are expected to increase rapidly , as the two sides have also agreed on the number of mainland tourists allowed to visit Taiwan, which will rise to 3 000 per day from 18 July.
The new arrivals will provide a much-needed economic boost, while the government is hoping for the direct flights to become daily soon.
The BBC’s Caroline Gluck in Taipei says that many Taiwanese are excited by the expected influx of Chinese tourists, even though others are more wary. They have concerns about rude behaviour, such as cheap spending habits and the potential for political disputes.
“The mainlanders will be our guests”, said Taiwanese Premier Liu Chao-shiuan on Thursday.
“I hope we can work together to impress them with the Taiwanese people’s good nature, politeness, passion and hospitality.”