Taiwan’s top China officials resigns ahead of reshuffle

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2012, 8:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2012, 8:16pm

Two top Taiwanese officials in charge of China affairs on Wednesday announced their resignations ahead of an anticipated government reshuffle.

Chiang Pin-kung, 79, said he has tendered his resignation as Taiwan’s chief negotiator with China and head of semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation due to his advanced age.

Lai Shin-yuan, chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the top China policy-making body, announced that she will take over as Taiwan’s representative to the World Trade Organisation.

Lai was not involved in talks with China due to the lack of formal ties between the formal rivals, and it has been Chiang’s job to handle negotiations.

Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s president in 2008 on a Beijing-friendly platform, ushering in a thaw in relations.

Since then, Chiang and his Chinese counterpart Chen Yunlin have conducted eight rounds of high-level talks and signed a total of 18 agreements to boost trade and civil exchanges.

“Now the two sides are replacing confrontation with dialogue and resolving conflict with reconciliation to open an unprecedented new chapter in ties,” he said.

“It’s time for me to retire after successfully accomplishing my mission,” he told reporters.

Observers expect Taiwan-China ties to continue in the present direction of rapprochement despite Chiang’s resignation, and despite speculations that his counterpart Chen, 70, will also retire.

“The impact will be very limited as Chiang’s position is more symbolic since he signed the deals while the negotiations were actually conducted by the relevant ministries,” said Tung Chen-yuan, a political scientist at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

A cabinet reshuffle is widely anticipated after opposition lawmakers initiated a vote of confidence in the parliament against Premier Sean Chen on Tuesday over what they see as his failure to curb rising unemployment and inflation.