Monday, November 03, 2008

News: Top Chinese Negotiator Arrives in Taiwan

 Origial News Link

Published: November 3, 2008

BEIJING -- Mainland China’s top negotiator on Taiwan matters arrived in Taipei on Monday to begin five days of talks aimed at reaching agreements on transportation and economic deals.

The negotiator, Chen Yunlin, is the highest ranking mainland Chinese official to visit Taiwan since the end of the civil war in 1949 and his arrival signals a further warming of relations between the two governments.

Mr. Chen, the head of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, landed at the Taipei airport and went to the historic Grand Hotel, where he made a few remarks to a crowd of reporters. Talks are expected to begin on Tuesday, when Mr. Chen meets with Chiang Pin-kung, the chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, the main negotiating body for Taiwan.

“The step is not easy and is a crystallization of the joint efforts of many compatriots across the strait,” Mr. Chen said, according to Xinhua, mainland China’s state-run news agency.

The negotiating bodies for the two governments met in June in Beijing after a long hiatus and signed a deal to start regular weekend charter flights between mainland and Taiwanese cities. The meeting took place shortly after the inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan, who was elected last March after promising to improve both the economy and relations with the mainland.

But Mr. Ma’s popularity has sagged in recent months — Taiwan’s economic performance has been lackluster, and many Taiwanese citizens say Mr. Ma and his party, the Kuomintang, or KMT, are moving Taiwan into mainland China’s orbit too quickly.

Protests against Mr. Ma’s China policies by the Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, the main opposition party, have been fierce. On Oct. 21, protests took place when Zhang Mingqing, the vice chairman of the mainland’s negotiating body, toured Taiwan. Mr. Zhang was shoved to the ground by a local politician while visiting the Confucius Temple in the southern city of Tainan, a bastion of the DPP.

During Mr. Chen’s visit, the National Policy Agency is deploying 10,000 security officers, according to the news service of the KMT. Traffic controls have been put in place to guard Mr. Chen’s motorcade, and 800 policemen have been posted to the Grand Hotel, the news service reported.

The Chinese Communist Party sees Taiwan as a rebel province that split from China in 1949, when the KMT sought refuge on the island after losing the Chinese civil war, and must be brought back into the fold. Many Taiwanese prefer to maintain the current status quo of de facto independence, and some, especially members of the DPP, advocate formal independence. The former president, Chen Shui-bian, the first DPP member to hold that office, tried moving the island closer to independence.

Mr. Chen, the mainland negotiator, and Mr. Chiang are expected to sign agreements that increase the charter flight schedule to every other day and open maritime shipping lanes. They are also expected to discuss economic cooperation as a way to fight the global financial crisis.

“It is imperative that the two sides join to help each other to cope,” Mr. Chen said on Monday, according to Xinhua.

Mr. Chen has also said the mainland is again offering to give two pandas to Taiwan, a move that the Beijing government first made in 2005 but that was rejected by the former Taiwanese president. Mr. Ma has indicated he would accept the pandas.

There is rampant speculation in both China and Taiwan over whether Mr. Chen and Mr. Ma will meet. If so, the big question is: Will Mr. Chen address Mr. Ma as zongtong, or president, thus acknowledging that Mr. Ma holds a title that in international affairs is usually accorded only to the head of a sovereign nation?

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