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UPDATED: February 18, 2014 NO. 8 FEBRUARY 20, 2014
Historic Breakthrough
Face-to-face meeting between top cross-Straits affairs officials points to better ties between the mainland and Taiwan
By Xin Hua

CLOSER LINK: Zhang Hui (left), Mayor of Weihai City in east China's Shandong Province, and Sun Huang-hsiang, Board Chairman of Taiwan's China Airlines, display a commemorative envelope at a ceremony in Weihai on December 31, 2013 marking the launch of the Weihai-Taipei non-stop air service (XINHUA)

ARATS-SEF talks have been speeding up since 2008 and have produced a number of important agreements, including lifting the bans on direct shipping, air transport and postal services in 2008, and the long-awaited Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in 2010.

However, the new communication channel between cross-Straits affairs departments on both sides will not replace talks between the ARATS and the SEF, according to a statement from the SCTAO. Nor will it change the way other departments contact each other, the document added.

Zhang Nianchi, Director of the Shanghai Institute for East Asian Studies, said that the new arrangement is in line with the one-China principle and will play a different role from the ARATS-SEF talks. "They will not collide with each other. The cross-Straits affairs departments talk about bigger and more general topics," he said.

Liu Xiangping, deputy head of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Nanjing University, believes the new arrangement should help the ARATS-SEF talks to be more effective.

Great expectations

The talks between Zhang and Wang also touched upon topics on follow-up consultations on the ECFA, exchange of representative offices between the ARATS and the SEF and media exchanges between both sides, said the SCTAO statement.

According to Ma, during the meeting, Zhang said that the mainland will do their utmost to meet the demands of their compatriots in Taiwan and ensure that they can reap more tangible benefits through cross-Straits cooperation. In addition to putting the ECFA into effect as soon as possible, Zhang called for accelerated negotiations to reach cross-Straits agreements on trade in goods and settlement of disputes.

Ma quoted Zhang as saying that completion of follow-up consultations on the ECFA within the year will be possible as long as both sides are mutually considerate and are sure to cooperate with each other.

Professor Su Chia-hung at Taiwan's Fooyin University told Xinhua News Agency that the meeting between top officials from the mainland and Taiwan on cross-Straits affairs is good for the island and will lead to closer economic and cultural cooperation.

"If such meetings produce concrete outcomes and better services for the common people, Taiwan will welcome the arrangement," Su said.

A poll conducted in Taiwan in mid-January showed that about 60 percent of local residents support the meeting between Zhang and Wang.

Chang Wu-ueh, a professor at the graduate institute of China studies at Taiwan's Tamkang University, told Xinhua News Agency that the meeting provides a promising prelude to tackling political issues and perhaps to meetings between senior leaders.

"We cannot expect too many achievements in one night. They will have to work harder on many issues," Chang said.

Email us at: yaobin@bjreview.com

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