Former Taiwan Premier to Visit China

As Hu Jintao seems to be reaching for better cross-straits relations with Taiwan, former DPP chairman Frank Hsieh will make a ‘trailblazing’ visit to China. From Shanghaiist:

Former chairman of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Frank Hsieh, has announced that he will visit mainland China on Thursday. Hsieh served as premier from February 2005 to January 2006 and will become the most senior member of the previous DPP administration to visit China.

The DPP, which favours de jure Taiwanese independence rather than the One Country, Two Systems approach, has long been seen as anti-China, but has softened its stance following the party’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election.

Hsieh, who has been invited to China by the International Bartenders Association, emphasised the need for dialogue between DPP politicians and their mainland counterparts:

As a political party, we have the obligation to represent Taiwan and speak up for our rights. We also have the obligation to protect our Taiwanese businessmen there. If the ruling Kuomintang joining hands with the Communist Party of China to deal with the DPP becomes a norm, I’ll be extremely worried that talk of our return to power will be nothing more than a legend.

According to AFP, the meeting has been described as an ‘ice-breaking’:

“The purpose of the trip is to build mutual trust,” said Hsieh, declining to say if he would meet Chinese government officials during the five-day visit.

“The DPP should face the reality of China’s rise…if the DPP keeps refusing to change its position and let the Kuomintang and the Chinese communist parties work hand in hand, I’m afraid the DPP will never be able to get back into power,” Hsieh said.

Voters in January re-elected President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang party, endorsing the Beijing-friendly policies he has pursued since he took office in 2008.

Hsu Yung-ming, a political science professor at Taipei’s Soochow University, told AFP that “although the party authorities have not decided to amend their China policy at the moment, the results of the visit could be used as a key reference in the future”.

Aside from Hsieh’s upcoming visit, a new chief of mainland affairs has taken office in Taiwan. From China Daily:

Wang Yu-chi, Taiwan’s new chief for mainland affairs, took office on Tuesday, pledging to continue to implement the cross-Straits policies of the island’s authorities.

Wang said that these policies adopted over the past four years have reduced tension,promoted exchanges and restarted institutionalized negotiations once stalled for years between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.

The benefits brought by the 18 agreements signed between Taiwan and the mainland continue to be felt on the island, according to Wang.

He added that he will continue to implement the cross-Straits policies of Taiwan authorities on the basis of the needs of the island’s people after taking office.

Amid these cross-straits changes, analysts are claiming that a new plan for Taiwanese travelers to gain visa-free access to the US would not affect ties, The Wall Street Journal adds:

Under the program, preapproved, low-risk travelers from participating countries can travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa. Taiwan becomes the 37th member of the club and the fifth Asian participant after Brunei, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. [Updated to reflect correction in the WSJ article.]

[…] The U.S. severed formal relations with Taiwan in 1979 following the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, but Washington remains a close ally and a major provider of defensive weapons to the island.

“China should have no problem with the new development because it should have no bearing on the cross-strait link,” said Yan Chen-shen, a politics professor at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University.

See also If Attacked, Would Taiwan Fight?, via CDT.

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