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Cross-Straits step forward

Updated: 2014-02-12 07:47
( China Daily)

Some are calling it a major breakthrough, even a milestone.

Which is true in the sense that it was the first time in six decades, representatives of the administrative authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Straits have met in their official capacities.

Others are cautioning against unrealistic anticipation of the outcome, which also holds true given the complicated context and subtle nature of a meeting like this one.

The Tuesday meeting between Wang Yu-chi, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, and Zhang Zhijun, director of the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, was rich in political symbolism, but, in and of itself, it was not about politics.

As Wang and Zhang revealed afterwards, their talks concentrated on technical concerns. Not surprising since Taiwan's legislative authorities had effectively ruled out anything politically significant.

Still, as many have observed, the materialization of their meeting is a remarkable step forward in benign interactions across the Straits; a step worth celebrating.

The meeting will go down in history less because of what Wang and Zhang discussed, but because of the very fact that they met. Prior to Tuesday, policy consultations between the two sides had been conducted on a party-to-party basis, or through semi-official institutions.

High-level interactions between Taiwan's Kuomintang and the Communist Party on the mainland, as well as those between Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation and the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, have promoted bilateral exchanges to previously inconceivable heights and at previously unimaginable speed over the past six years in particular. It is this continuous accumulation of mutual goodwill that has brought cross-Straits ties to where they are now, and made the meeting between Wang and Zhang possible.

Their meeting will in turn deepen and enhance mutual goodwill. Because, with the administrative authorities on both sides of the Straits coming to the fore, direct, and therefore more efficient, communication will make many things easier.

It is naive to place too much expectation on one single meeting. It will take strenuous efforts from both sides to build up mutual political trust commensurate with their economic interdependence and the wishes of peace-and-stability-minded public in both Taiwan and the mainland.

Yet, it would be a tremendous feat if this meeting could initiate an institutionalized mechanism of direct official contacts.

Which is why we see Tuesday as a promising new starting point.