Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Welcome move across the Straits

By Zhu Songling (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-27 07:25

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 few years, which saw the 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 counterpart Wang Yu-chi in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, where Wang invited him to visit Taiwan in return.

Zhang's scheduled visit to Taiwan, however, was delayed because of the protests against the Cross-Straits 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 cross-Straits 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's Mainland Affairs Council) this year, Zhang will spend three of the four days of his visit meeting the mayors of New Taipei 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.

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