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China-Taiwan meeting heralds 'new model' for cross-Straits talk

Publication Date : 11-02-2014

 

Officials from Beijing and Taipei in charge of cross-Straits affairs will hold a landmark meeting on Tuesday in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, which experts said will usher in new practical communication mechanisms between the two sides.

Zhang Zhijun, head of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, is scheduled to meet Taiwan's mainland affairs chief Wang Yu-chi in the afternoon, marking the first dialogue in decades between officials in charge of cross-Straits relations.

The two had a brief "chat" last October during the Apec meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

Issues high on the agenda include a proposal to create liaison offices, efforts on regional economic integration and better healthcare for Taiwan students studying on the mainland, AFP reported.

Calling the dialogue "a historic landmark", experts said the visit is a first step toward new communication mechanisms that will enhance mutual trust and improve efficiency.

Quasi-official organisations such as the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation have been the major communication channels between two sides since the early 1990s.

"Cross-Straits relations have developed peacefully for the past five years, and 19 agreements have been signed because of the efforts of the two organisations," said Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies.

"However, the future evolution of ties calls for a new model of all-round exchanges beyond the current organisations, especially in terms of political interaction," said Ni, who is also head of Cross-Taiwan Straits Studies magazine.

"Face-to-face talks will help dispel suspicion between the two sides, given that messages passed through the two organisations are sometimes misinterpreted," he added.

Jia Qingguo, a professor at Peking University, said the visit has a symbolic meaning and will introduce more confidence and trust between the two sides. He added that the meeting could bring about modest improvements in cooperation.

"The mainland probably attaches more importance to accelerating the process of economic integration, and also with a view to political unification in the long run," Jia was quoted by AFP as saying.

Taiwan's Wang is leading a delegation of more than 20 members on his four-day trip to the mainland. On Wednesday, he will pay homage at the mausoleum of Dr Sun Yat-sen - founder of the Kuomintang - in Nanjing's eastern suburbs, and talk with students at Nanjing University.

On Thursday, Wang is scheduled to meet scholars at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and visit Shanghai Media Group. He will also visit a school in Shanghai for Taiwan children on Friday before wrapping up his mainland trip.

Experts said Wang chose to visit Shanghai because it is the economic hub of the mainland and attracts an increasing number of Taiwan businessmen.

According to Taiwan media, in 2012 there were about 2 million Taiwan businessmen on the mainland, of whom 800,000 worked and lived in Shanghai.

At Nanjing University, Wang may want to retrace some of his college experiences. In 1990, Wang's university debating team won the championship of an Asian varsity competition in Singapore after beating its opponent in the final round - which happened to be the team from Nanjing University.

It was one of the first exchanges between Wang and youth from the mainland, Ni said.

Cross-Straits relations have improved significantly over recent years. In 2005, a deadlock was resolved following then-KMT Chairman Lien Chan's ice-breaking visit to the mainland to meet Hu Jintao, then-general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

In June 2010, the two sides signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, cementing a thriving trade relationship.

 

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