Outgoing commerce minister won't say if he'll lead Taiwan talks

Outgoing commerce minister not confirming reports of new role in negotiations with island

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 6:18am

Outgoing Commerce Minister Chen Deming would not confirm yesterday that he will take over as head of the mainland body responsible for negotiations with Taiwan in the upcoming leadership reshuffle.

A major reshuffle among mainland officials responsible for Taiwan affairs is on the cards, with the head of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, Wang Yi , likely to become foreign minister.

Taiwanese media have reported that the three deputy directors of the office, Zheng Lizhong , Ye Kedong and Sun Yafu , will also move.

There has been strong speculation that Chen will replace Chen Yunlin , the 71-year-old chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (Arats).

Chen Deming, 64, was involved in the negotiation of the Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement, a trade agreement between mainland and Taiwan. At the Communist Party's national congress last year, he called on Taiwan to give the mainland more preferential trade treatment.

But he would not say yesterday, on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, whether he would be joining Arats. "I have not heard about that," he said. "There is some speculation, but I have not heard any confirmed information about that."

There is also speculation he may become a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference .

Executive Deputh Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun is likely to become the next chief of the Taiwan Affairs Office, with Beijing keen to appoint senior diplomats to head Taiwan affairs, which often involve complex international relations. Zhang declined to comment on his next move yesterday, but added that he was concerned about Taiwan's development.

"I think all Chinese people are concerned about that," he said.

When asked whether any significant changes in the mainland's Taiwan policies were likely, Ye said Beijing would continue to consolidate cross-strait ties.

In the government work report delivered yesterday, Premier Wen Jiabao said the mainland would further promote political, economic, cultural and social ties with Taiwan.