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Taipei should respond to Beijing's goodwill
China Daily  Updated: 2005-06-16 05:51

Beijing yesterday introduced new rules to ease employment for Taiwan compatriots on the mainland and further simplify entry and exit procedures.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education and other related departments are considering plans to reduce tuition and fees for Taiwan students studying on the mainland, and are thinking about setting up special scholarships for these students.

The goodwill gestures followed the mainland's recent decision to grant tariff-free entry to 15 varieties of Taiwan-grown fruit and scrap the ban on mainland tourists visiting the island.

The above-mentioned moves fully demonstrate the mainland's sincerity in honouring its pledges to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Taiwan compatriots and improve cross-Straits relations.

In stark contrast, the Taiwan authorities have expressed vague and passive attitudes, while cold-shouldering these offers, which were made during the mainland visits by Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan and People First Party Chairman James Soong from Taiwan in late April and early May.

Taiwan's ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was refusing to enter talks with the mainland, citing various excuses.

Only when there was great pressure from within the island did the DPP administration reluctantly reveal its willingness to talk.

On Monday, Taiwanese "premier" Frank Hsieh said his government had authorized two private groups to discuss direct cross-Straits air cargo flights and Taiwan's farm goods exports to the mainland with their mainland counterparts.

His overture apparently shows that the island's administration has backed away from its former demand for "governmental" talks with Beijing on the two issues on the grounds of safeguarding the administration's rights.

Although Taipei's move fell short of addressing public concerns over cross-Straits issues in an all-around way, Beijing still gave a cautious welcome yesterday.

Li Weiyi, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, told a regular press conference that the mainland is ready to communicate with any Taiwanese private group or organization for the benefit of Taiwanese people.

The positive interaction between Beijing and Taipei can be taken as an encouraging step towards breaking the current impasse over cross-Straits economic exchanges.

Hopefully, both sides will come up with more pragmatism and flexibility so that solutions can be worked out to all the issues that need to be negotiated.

Taipei's drastic change in its attitude suggests the trend towards developing closer cross-Straits relations is more powerful than the DPP administration had thought.

Obviously, the DPP administration knows better than anyone else that the mainland's economic incentives will greatly benefit the island, which has long been suffering from economic woes.

However, the administration is bound by its strong ideology and its preoccupation with "Taiwan independence."

It was just this kind of political bias against the mainland, and its long-standing attempt to isolate the island from the mainland, that prompted the DPP administration to refuse any gifts from Beijing.

The facts, however, show that Taipei has to face reality, no matter how reluctant it is.

Taipei may have to realize that it would be better for it to take the initiative in meeting the public's demand for closer cross-Straits exchanges than being forced to take an action under mounting public pressure.

Given the island's mainstream wish for peace and co-operation across the Straits, any Taiwanese party or politician that stands in its way risks losing public support as well as power.

So it is high time the DPP administration reciprocated the mainland's sincerity and took concrete measures to develop bilateral ties.

(China Daily 06/16/2005 page4)

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