Beijing-Taipei talks open door to developing political ties, analysts say

First official meeting between mainland and Taiwan officials in 65 years has opened the door to development of political relations, analysts say

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 5:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 5:13pm

Taiwan and the mainland have opened the door to developing political relations following their first official talks in 65 years, analysts say.

Last week's official meeting showed the mainland was bringing its approach to dealing with Taiwan in line with President Xi Jinping's stated preference that dialogue steer ties, they said.

This new flexibility in Beijing's approach was further evidenced by the revelation by the Taiwanese envoy, Wang Yu-chi, that his public mention of the island's official name had been tacitly agreed upon by Beijing earlier.

Wang, head of Taiwan's ministerial- level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), and his mainland counterpart, Zhang Zhijun of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), met in their official capacities in Nanjing on Tuesday. Following the meeting, government-to-government dialogue is set to be the norm.

"The talks saw our two sides agreeing to establish a regular communication mechanism between the MAC and TAO," Wang told a news conference after returning to Taiwan on Friday.

In future, cross-strait officials of the same level of authority could telephone each other directly to discuss matters, Wang added.

Wang elaborated on his use of the island's official name for itself, Republic of China, during a speech at the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, and the use of official titles during the talks. "We discussed this with the mainland beforehand," Wang said.

The Taiwanese side had raised the possibility of using the language, and Beijing objected. When Taipei raised it again, the mainland side said nothing, he said.

Beijing has previously rejected any notion that there is any "China" apart from the People's Republic of China. It has consistently maintained that Taiwan is a breakaway province.

Wang said he had urged mainland officials and scholars to accept that Taiwan and the mainland were ruled by different governments.

Even leading pro-independence figures from the Democratic Progressive Party, including chairman Su Tseng-chang, former vice-president Annette Lu Hsiu-lien and former premier Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, applauded the development.

Analysts said the visit had opened a new chapter in cross-strait relations. "The formation of the communication mechanism that allows officials from the two sides to talk directly is expected to help normalise cross-strait relations and build up political contact and mutual trust," said Wang Kung-yi, a professor at Taiwan's Tamkang University.

Chang Wu-ueh, dean of the university's Institute of Mainland Study, said ties would be built step by step. "Instead of moving by leaps and bounds, the mainland is expected to deal with this in a more cautious way" by deepening political trust, Chang said.

Wang Kung-yi said the use of official titles and the public utterance of "Republic of China" showed that Beijing was being flexible in dealing with the island.

"They have adopted a new mindset that fits with Xi Jinping's call for reasonable arrangements for cross-strait political relations before unification," he said.

Beijing was cautious about making such concessions to avoid creating misunderstanding among the mainland public, he added. "This can be shown by the omission of the official titles of both Wang Yu-chi and Taiwan in reports by the mainland news media," he said.

Wang Jianmin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the communication channel was a breakthrough in cross-strait relations. "Its establishment is based on Taipei's acceptance of the 1992 consensus on one-China," he added.

He was referring to the understanding reached that year that there is only one China but that each side had its own interpretation of that.