The mainland's top bureaucrat on cross-strait affairs, Wang Yi, met the Taiwanese opposition heavyweight Frank Hsieh Chang-ting in Beijing last night.
Hsieh, a former premier of Taiwan, is the most senior representative of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to visit the mainland. The trip has been seen as recognition by Beijing of the need to build a relationship with the opposition party should it return to power in four years.
Xinhua quoted the office's spokesman, Yang Yi, as saying: "State Council Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi met Mr Hsieh Chang-ting in Beijing today," emphasising that Hsieh is visiting the mainland in his personal capacity.
The statement went on: "Wang briefed [Hsieh] on the mainland's development and explained the mainland's Taiwan policy.
"Both sides agreed the meeting is beneficial," Yang said.
Beijing is watching Hsieh's mainland trip, which started in Xiamen on Thursday, for potential openings with the DPP. Analysts and Taiwanese politicians are watching closely to see whether during his trip Hsieh will meet the chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Jia Qinglin, the second most senior party official with responsibility for Taiwan affairs.
Earlier yesterday, after a meeting with Beijing's top Taiwan affairs think tank, Hsieh said that both sides acknowledged cross-strait relations had hit a "bottleneck", a rare admission from a top DPP leader.
"Both sides have to face, respect and deal with the differences between them in the future," Hsieh told reporters after the closed-door meeting with Professor Yu Keli, head of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Taiwan Studies.
Mainland analysts attributed the "bottleneck" to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's hesitancy to push talks with Beijing towards more sensitive political issues.
Professor Xu Bodong, director of the Taiwan Institute at Beijing Union University, was pessimistic about the prospects for cross-strait relations, saying the pro-independence DPP had played a key role in creating the bottleneck.
"Ma's administration has been hesitant to touch the political issues because of concern about the DPP's emotional hostility to Beijing," he said.
However, experts on the mainland said Hsieh made a good impression among the public and academics who received him in Beijing and Xiamen.