Taiwan names former foreign minister to head cross-strait agency amid strained ties with Beijing
Tien Hung-mao to take charge at Straits Exchange Foundation, months after the mainland severed ties with the body
Taipei has named a former foreign minister as head of a cross-strait body in the hope of restoring dialogue with Beijing.
But Beijing, which cut communication with the island in June, said resumption of links hinged on the “1992 consensus”.
Analysts said the new chief of the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation could do little to improve cross-strait ties without agreement on the consensus.
President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party has refused to acknowledge the consensus since her inauguration in May.
On Wednesday night, she named Tien Hung-mao as head of the SEF, which represents the island’s government in talks with Beijing. Tien, 77, was foreign minister between 2000 and 2002 and is head of the Institute for National Policy Research.
His future boss, Mainland Affairs Council chief Katharine Chang was his spokeswoman when he was foreign minister.
Though he is seen as a DPP moderate, his stint at the now defunct National Unification Council set up during Lee Teng-hui’s presidency in the 1990s allowed him to forge good links with Kuomintang bigwigs, including former vice-president Vincent Siew and former legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng.
“The government hopes to use Tien’s expertise and experience to explore opportunities for Taiwanese businesses, help them solve problems and maintain cross-strait exchanges,” Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang said.
But Zhang Zhijun, director of the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said resumption of formal communications rested on the 1992 consensus.
“The key is the political basis used for talks,” Central News Agency quoted Zhang as saying.
The 1992 consensus, reached by the KMT and the mainland in 1992, allows the two sides to continue to talk as long as they acknowledge there is only one China. Each can have its own definition of what China stands for.
National Taiwan University political science professor Chang Ya-chung said he did not expect Tien would be able to reopen talks as long as the Taipei refused to accept the consensus. “Without the consensus, whoever heads the SEF would be unable to resume the original function of the negotiating body,” Chang said.
DPP legislator Huang Wei-che said though Tien’s appointment might please the hardcore pro-independence camp, he could do little more than “maintain the basic liaison function”.