Taiwan welcomes ‘Beijing’s goodwill’ invitation to Chinese culture conference

But offer to attend forum not the start of a cross-strait thaw, analyst says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 7:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 10:28pm

Taipei has welcomed an invitation to attend an annual Chinese cultural conference in Hong Kong in December, describing the offer as a goodwill gesture from Beijing.

But analysts said this did not mean Beijing would resume political exchanges or talks with the island, links that were suspended in June last year when Tsai Ing-wen took over as Taiwan’s president.

Chang Tieh-chih, deputy secretary general of the General Association of Chinese Culture, confirmed on Saturday that he had been invited to take part in the City-to-City Cultural Exchange Conference, organised this year by the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture.

“I have attended the forum at least three times before,” Chang said, adding he would be asked to chair a panel or review papers presented during the forum.

Civilian group from mainland China to take more prominent role in cross-strait affairs

The forum is a gathering of cultural officials and academics from Taipei, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, with the cities taking turns to host the event.

Taipei is usually represented at the forum by a member of the association, an organisation set up by

late Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek in 1967 to promote a revival of Chinese culture on the mainland.

Tsai took over as the association’s chairwoman in March this year.

But Beijing has been irked by Tsai’s refusal to accept the “1992 consensus”, an understanding that there is only one China, though each can have its meaning of what that China stands for.

Beijing sees the consensus as the foundation for cross-strait talks and suspended exchanges after Tsai did not publicly acknowledge the understanding.

Beijing should be more flexible with Taiwan or face blame if cross-strait ties worsen, says former US diplomat

Sidney Lin, a spokesman for Taiwan’s Presidential Office, said the invitation was a goodwill gesture from Beijing.

“We hope that through civilian exchanges, the two sides will be able to resolve their misunderstanding,” Lin said.

He also called for Beijing to remove the “political barrier” it has imposed since June 2016.

But Wang Kung-yi, a political science professor at Chinese Culture University, said Chang was invited to the forum because it was a city-level event.

“Also, Beijing has not suspended civilian cultural and academic exchanges with Taiwan. It would be a wishful thinking for the Tsai government to see this as an easing in the cross-strait stalemate,” Wang said.