China, Taiwan may set up liaison facility

February 13, 2014 - 8:20:05 am

Taiwanese official Wang Yu-chi (centre), tours the Dr Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum in Nanjing yesterday. 

NANJING: A Taiwan official visiting China said yesterday the two sides were “actively discussing” setting up liaison offices, a day after they held their first government-to-government talks since splitting 65 years ago.

Taiwan’s top official overseeing China policy, Wang Yu-chi, urged more efforts to build stable relations. Observers say liaison bureaux on either side of the Taiwan Strait could serve some of the functions of diplomatic missions.

“The purpose of setting up mutual offices is purely to serve the people on both sides of the strait,” Wang told university students in the eastern city of Nanjing.

“Although setting up mutual offices is a bit sensitive politically, they should be neutral in nature,” he added. Wang also praised Taiwan’s democratic form of government and highlighted the role of a free media.

Wang and his Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun held talks for around two hours on Tuesday in an occasion which yielded little in terms of concrete agreements but was laden with symbolism.

The meeting was the result of years of gradual efforts to improve political ties on the back of a strong economic relationship.

Yesterday, Wang also visited the tomb of revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen in Nanjing and paid tribute to the man revered by both sides.  

“In future, the most important issue is that both sides of the strait should face reality, pragmatically confront and solve problems so as to build long-term, stable cross-strait relations,” he said after leaving Sun’s mausoleum.

Sun is widely recognised as the father of the Chinese revolution that established a republic early last century after thousands of years of dynastic rule. He was also the leader of the Kuomintang, or Nationalist, party which now governs Taiwan.

After they lost China’s civil war -- which cost millions of lives -- to Mao Zedong’s communists in 1949, two million supporters of then Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan.

The island and the mainland have been governed separately ever since, both claiming to be the true government of China and only reestablishing contact in the 1990s through quasi-official organisations.

The state-backed China Daily newspaper yesterday appeared to temper expectations arising from the meeting.

“The meeting will go down in history less because of what Wang and Zhang discussed, but because of the very fact that they met,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“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,” it added.

The election of Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang as Taiwan’s president in 2008 improved relations with China, which were strained in the mid-1990s when Beijing conducted “missile tests” in waters near the island ahead of Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election.