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China, Taiwan gear up to iron out bilateral ties

China and Taiwan on Tuesday agreed to open a regular bilateral communication channel for the first time since 1949, when relations between the two were stalled following formation of the People's Republic of China under the Communist Party of China and the escape of the Kuomintang-led group to the island off the southern coast.

world Updated: Feb 11, 2014 21:20 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

China and Taiwan on Tuesday agreed to open a regular bilateral communication channel for the first time since 1949, when relations between the two were stalled following formation of the People's Republic of China under the Communist Party of China and the escape of the Kuomintang-led group to the island off the southern coast.

The arrangement was announced after a meeting between Zhang Zhijun, head of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office (SCTAO), and Wang Yu-chi, Taiwan's mainland affairs chief, who arrived in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, on Tuesday morning for a four-day visit.

Their meeting was the first between sitting cross-Strait affairs chiefs from the two sides since 1949.

China has always claimed Taiwan — officially the Republic of China — to be its part, while the latter has maintained a separate and lately a democratic identity with a free press and freedom of speech and expression.

But owing to China's influence in world affairs and economic prowess, most countries in the world – including India – do not recognise Taiwan as a separate country. Many, again including India, maintain diplomatic presence on the heavily urbanised island by proxy.

According to state-run Xinhua news agency, the new mechanism will not replace the ongoing talks between the mainland Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and its Taiwan counterpart the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which focus on detailed affairs and cross-Strait agreements.

Xinhua reported that Wang described his meeting with Zhang as "an unimaginable occasion in earlier years".

"Being able to sit down and talk is really valuable, considering that the two sides were once almost at war," he said. .

Zhang agreed that such a meeting would have been impossible earlier and called for "a little more imagination" in cross-Strait relations.

The issue of reunification of Taiwan with Mainland has remained a bitter one for decades.

The Han Taiwanese have roots in the Mainland but many are afraid that unification would result in the loss of the distinct identity – and the democratic moorings – of the island under the overwhelming influence of Beijing.