More cross-Straits exchanges urged
Mainland’s chief of Taiwan affairs visits island to enhance relations
The mainland’s chief official on Taiwan affairs called for more people-to-people exchanges across the Taiwan Straits during a visit to New Taipei City on Thursday.
During a meeting with city residents, Zhang Zhijun, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said there are many differences between people from the mainland and Taiwan, but each should open up lines of communication to better understand the other.
The meeting at a residential complex on Thursday came on the second day of his four-day trip. Zhang gave out panda toys to children and held closed-door talks with residents for about 30 minutes.
The toys were replicas of Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, two pandas the mainland donated to Taiwan in December 2008.
During a performance by dancers at the residential complex, Zhang snapped photos.
At a nursing center, Zhang had lunch and chatted with elderly people at a cafeteria.
In a meeting with New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu, Zhang said the city has cooperated with mainland cities in a number of sectors — including trade, agriculture, education, healthcare and environmental protection — with increasing grassroots exchanges and communication among people from both sides.
“I visited New Taipei as my first stop to know more about how the city was built and about the lives of its people,” Zhang said.
Small and medium-sized enterprises should benefit from cross-Straits exchanges, he said, adding that business cooperation is an important issue for both mainland and Taiwan authorities.
Zhang said after meeting with residents on Thursday that it was a happy experience and he had a better understanding of Taiwanese society.
“There are some 200 people in the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, and nearly all of them have visited Taiwan, except me,” he said.
It’s the first time that a director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office has visited Taiwan since 1949. He is scheduled to visit Kaohsiung on Friday and Taichung on Saturday.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lungbin arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a four-day trip to promote shopping and tourism in Taipei.
Chen Xiancai, a professor from the Taiwan Institute at Xiamen University, said Zhang’s grassroots meetings in Taiwan, especially with the younger generations, will help senior mainland officials gain more popularity among local Taiwanese people.
The visit is expected to appease anxiety in Taiwan over the rapid development of cross-Straits ties after a recent protest against a service trade pact that would open up dozens of industries from both sides, he said.
On March 18, hundreds of students stormed into the building of the island’s legislative chamber and occupied it to protest the trade pact. The protesters withdrew in early April after the pact was sent to the legislative chamber for a detailed review.
The cross-Straits relationship has stepped into a “deep-water zone” that requires both sides to take wiser measures to maintain stability and progress, said Zhu Weidong, deputy director of the the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“We don’t expect all of the problems to be addressed in just one visit, but this is a good beginning,” he said. Xinhua contributed to this story.
Zhang Zhijun (center), director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, wearing a traditional costume, holds hands with Atayal people during his visit to the Wulai Scenic Area in New Taipei City on Thursday.