Beijing has unveiled a basket of initiatives to deepen economic, cultural and social exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, following a high-profile meeting last week between President Xi Jinping and Wu Poh-hsiung, the honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang.
Wu, who is believed to act as a proxy for Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, also expressed Taiwan's desire to join Asia's Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and to participate in other global activities.
The director of the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhang Zhijun, said yesterday at the opening of a week-long high-level forum on cross-strait exchanges in Xiamen, Fujian province that the mainland would announce 31 measures this week to cultivate cross-strait interactions.
Among the six measures that he disclosed was the access that Taiwanese would be given to 10 categories of accreditation tests on the mainland, as well as the establishment of 10 cross-strait cultural exchange centres on the mainland.
Further, the mainland's Supreme People's Court will grant legal status to civil arbitration agreements formulated by arbitration committees in Taiwan.
The initiatives announced at the Fifth Straits Forum came as the latest attempt to promote people-to-people exchanges across the Taiwan Strait amid deep-rooted distrust.
Speaking on behalf of Xi, the chairman of the Chinese Political People's Consultative Conference, Yu Zhengsheng , said the mainland would strive towards consolidating peaceful mainland-Taiwan ties, while welcoming former pro-independence Taiwanese to visit the mainland.
"Our new leadership will continue to follow correct policies and dedicate itself to consolidating the political, economic, cultural and social foundations for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations," he said.
KMT vice-chairman Lin Fong-cheng and Taicheng Deputy Mayor Cai Bing-kun are among the 1,700 delegates from across the Taiwan Strait attending this week's forum.
National Tourism Administration chairman Shao Qiwei also announced 13 more mainland cities where residents may apply for self-guided tours in Taiwan, an extension of a pilot programme introduced a few years ago.
In a speech in the United States on Thursday, Su Tseng-chang, chairman of Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said his party was not only willing to open up a dialogue with mainland authorities but also looked forward to engaging mainland people, according to the Taiwan-based Want Daily.
But he reiterated that his party would never consider Taiwan a part of China and that both sides of the Taiwan Strait should maintain that status quo.
Li Jiaquan , a senior researcher specialising in Taiwan affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the raft of initiatives served to deepen cross-strait exchanges but the process of advancing cross-strait relations would be long and slow because of political distrust and the fact that Taiwan political decisions were driven by voters.
But citing the row between Taiwan and the Philippines over the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman last month, Li said the Philippines could no longer disregard Taiwan as it used to do because Taiwan now had the mainland's support.
"Many Taiwanese might still be reluctant to regard Taiwan and the mainland as one family, but Taiwan is benefiting from the fact that the mainland is behind the island," he said. "But it'll take many, many such initiatives and exchanges to help people in Taiwan realise that."