After three years of deadlock, Beijing and Taipei seem to be edging towards a resumption of a dialogue that has been on hold since the reaction to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's controversial visit to the United States brought the two sides close to military conflict. Next week's visit to Beijing by negotiators from Taipei is likely to pave the way for more high-level contacts in coming months, including a meeting between the heads of the semi-official bodies responsible for cross-strait dialogue. Some effort is being made to avoid unnecessary disputes, with the Foreign Ministry in Beijing quick to play down reports of military exercises which had unnerved Taipei investors. Though China has hinted that it may soften its pre-conditions for talks, Taiwan remains wary of discussing major matters such as reunification. It prefers the dialogue to focus on peripheral issues such as fishing rights, and stressed yesterday that more substantive negotiations were unlikely this year. So the recovery in relations remains fragile. Past experience shows how easy such potentially promising moves can be reversed. Only last week the two sides traded insults over a Taiwanese proposal to co-host talks on the regional economic crisis. But, if self-interest is any guide, this slow rapprochement should continue. Beijing is more confident than it has been for many years. The good state of relations with the US helps it to enter cross-strait talks in a position of strength. For Taiwan, even if political factors push in other directions, recent economic events have shown how much the island's prosperity hinges on forging closer economic ties with the mainland, the one nation to have survived the financial crisis largely unscathed. As China's relations with the world improve, so does the climate for cross-strait negotiations. Next week's visit to Beijing should be a small step in the right direction.