Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Cross-Straits ties progress

By Zhang Tuosheng (China Daily) Updated: 2011-06-03 08:01

Relations between mainland and Taiwan still face challenges despite increased dialogue and exchanges

Political and security relations across the Taiwan Straits have markedly improved since the change in ruling party in Taiwan in 2008. The cross-Straits situation has on the whole moved toward stability and relaxation and this significant improvement has enjoyed extensive support and praise from the international community.

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Seeking peaceful cross-Straits development has become the mainstream consensus of the two sides. Since the spring of 2008, on the basis of adhering to the 1992 Consensus, leaders of the two sides have reached agreement on promoting peaceful development, building mutual trust, shelving disputes and creating win-win opportunities, thus laying down an important foundation for the two sides to build up the necessary mutual political trust.

In the past three years, according to the principles of "economics first, politics later", moving from easier to more difficult issues and making gradual and step-by-step progress, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) have rapidly resumed their consultations and made institutional arrangements for them. Full "three direct links" have been put in place; and the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has been signed, leading to increased exchanges in all fields. By the end of 2010, the two sides had already signed 15 agreements.

It is fair to say that, cross-Straits relations have experienced a historic breakthrough within a short period of time. After six decades, an enormous change has taken place and cross-Straits relations have moved from the conflicting goals of reunification and "independence" to the track of peaceful development.

However, although the two sides have already reached an important common understanding on the establishment of a peaceful development framework, there are some major differences between them in how to achieve that objective. The political positioning of cross-Straits relations remains the most difficult point. Additionally, although the improved relationship has had a positive effect on the people on both sides, a sense of estrangement and mistrust remains and will take time to eliminate.

In terms of the process of establishing a peaceful development framework, the next step will require moving from the "easy" to the "more difficult". The two sides have agreed that the priority this year is to further implement the various agreements already reached, including the ECFA, to strengthen cultural exchanges and make efforts to consolidate the results of improved relations.

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