Beijing has set up a high-level committee to monitor 'election politics' in Taiwan in the run-up to the presidential polls in the middle of next year. The committee is made up of senior cadres in charge of policies towards the island as well as Taiwan experts in official academies and think-tanks. It reports to the Leading Group on Taiwan Affairs of the Communist Party Central Committee, which is headed by President Jiang Zemin. A Beijing source said the 'next stage' of the party leadership's Taiwan policy would hinge on the results of the 2000 election. The source said in spite of efforts by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to play down its pro-independence stance, Beijing still preferred a victory by the ruling Kuomintang. It is understood mainland authorities were pleased by the possibility that the pro-DPP votes might be split after the defection from the party of heavyweight politician Hsu Hsin-liang. The source said the mainland's Taiwan experts had hinted Beijing could live with a victory by either of the two Kuomintang contenders for the presidency: Vice-President Lien Chan and former Taiwan province governor James Soong. A diplomatic analyst in the mainland capital said Beijing would be more cautious about using 'intimidation tactics' in the run-up to the elections. 'Beijing's Taiwan experts have learnt the lesson of March 1966, when the PLA's war games actually helped Lee Teng-hui gain more votes in the presidential polls,' the analyst said. 'The special committee on Taiwan elections will advise President Jiang on what postures to take to help pro-unification politicians on the island.' Meanwhile, Beijing and Taipei are studying a proposal put forward by academics from both sides that 'non-official forums' be held between pairs of Chinese and Taiwanese cities. A 'forum' is a framework for officials from one Chinese and one Taiwan city to meet on an ad hoc basis to discuss topics such as economic co-operation and other affairs at the municipal level. However, officials will take part in the forums in unofficial capacities such as heads of research units. The forum idea is modelled on meetings which Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, who visited the SAR earlier this year, hopes to conduct with Hong Kong officials and politicians.