Wel­come move across the Straits

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Views • Letters -

The June 25-28 visit of Zhang Zhi­jun, head of the State Coun­cil Tai­wan Af­fairs Of­fice, to Tai­wan is the first of its kind since 1949. In more ways than one, it is a land­mark ef­fort by main­land au­thor­i­ties to re­solve cross-Straits is­sues in a peace­ful way. Zhang’s visit to Tai­wan is also no­table for its tim­ing, sched­ule and sig­nif­i­cance.

Cross-Straits ties have im­proved re­mark­ably in the past fewyears, which sawthe re­sump­tion of di­rect flight, ship­ping and postal ser­vices be­tween the main­land and Tai­wan. Boost­ing this spirit, Xi Jin­ping, the top leader, said ear­lier this year that “both sides of the Straits are one fam­ily”. And in Fe­bru­ary, Zhang held a for­mal meet­ing with his vis­it­ing coun­ter­partWang Yu-chi in­Nan­jing, Jiangsu prov­ince, whereWang in­vited him to visit Tai­wan in re­turn.

Zhang’s sched­uled visit to Tai­wan, how­ever, was de­layed be­cause of the protests against the CrossStraits Ser­vice Trade Agree­ment on the is­land in March. The protests not only de­layed Zhang’s sched­uled trip to Tai­wan, but also cre­ated some un­cer­tainty on both sides of the Straits over fu­ture de­vel­op­ments.

But af­ter the protests sub­sided, the two sides got down to the busi­ness of ad­dress­ing the rea­sons for the gap be­tween the main­land’s Tai­wan poli­cies and Tai­wan’s pub­lic opin­ion. In fact, many po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions in Tai­wan, in­clud­ing the Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party, the is­land’s largest op­po­si­tion party, and civil so­ci­ety are ea­ger to ad­vance crossStraits re­la­tions by deep­en­ing mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Zhang’s visit to Tai­wan is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant be­cause he will be able to gauge the lo­cal pub­lic opin­ion, which is key to re­duc­ing the long­stand­ing mis­un­der­stand­ings across the Straits.

Not sur­pris­ingly, there­fore, the fo­cus of Zhang’s visit is in­ter­ac­tions with Tai­wan grass­roots in­sti­tu­tions and in­di­vid­u­als, which he had been re­it­er­at­ing since the be­gin­ning of the protests against the CSSTA. Apart from hold­ing a sec­ond meet­ing with Wang Yu-chi (di­rec­tor of Tai­wan’sMain­land Af­fairs Coun­cil) this year, Zhang will spend three of the four days of his visit meet­ing the may­ors ofNewTaipei City, Taichung and Kaoh­si­ung, and in­ter­act­ing with lo­cal people from all walks of life and dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups.

It is thus ob­vi­ous that Zhang’s itin­er­ary has been drawn up keep­ing in mind the ne­ces­sity of strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween for­mal and in­for­mal meet­ings. For in­stance, the three cities on Zhang’s itin­er­ary are in the north­ern, mid­dle and south­ern parts of Tai­wan.

As a ground­break­ing trip aimed at re­viv­ing crossStraits com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Zhang’s visit to Tai­wan is of great po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic im­por­tance. Tai­wan so­ci­ety is fairly di­ver­si­fied where people dif­fer dras­ti­cally in their so­cial and po­lit­i­cal views. Hence, Zhang’s di­rect con­tact and in­ter­ac­tions with grass­roots people will help him bet­ter un­der­stand the pub­lic sen­ti­ment in Tai­wan. In par­tic­u­lar, his meet­ing with youths and small en­trepreneurs, who were at the fore­front of the protests against the CSSTA, will help the main­land ad­just its Tai­wan poli­cies.

It is worth not­ing, though, that the sym­bolic sig­nif­i­cance of Zhang’s visit out­weighs its prac­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance, be­cause the two sides have not yet changed their ba­sic po­si­tions, which could pre­vent them from reach­ing more agree­ments, and the anti-CSSTA­group has re­port­edly been mo­bi­liz­ing people to be­gin a new round of protests.

But there is no deny­ing that Zhang’s ground­break­ing visit to Tai­wan re­flects the main­land’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to peace­fully re­solve cross-Straits is­sues and ad­dress Tai­wan people’s wor­ries, ir­re­spec­tive of the hin­drance the anti-CSSTA group wants to cre­ate. More im­por­tantly, Zhang’s visit also opens a win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for the op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party to hold talks with the main­land and help fur­ther strengthen cross-Straits re­la­tions. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor with the In­sti­tute of Tai­wan Stud­ies, Bei­jing Union Univer­sity.

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