China’s top official in charge of cross-strait affairs began a four-day trip to Taiwan yesterday, two months after protests halted a trade pact between the two economies.
Zhang Zhijun, who is also a member of the Communist Party’s central committee that elects China’s elite Politburo, arrived in Taipei yesterday, the first head of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office to visit Taiwan. His first words on arrival were in the local Minnan dialect, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The second meeting between the two governments comes as popular sentiment toward Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s policies fostering closer economic ties with China have chilled. Protests in March and April halted the legislative review of a cross-strait trade deal opening up service industries on both sides to markets and competition. Two-way trade reached $197.2 billion in 2013, almost double the amount five years earlier.
Expectations for the visit should not be too high, the mainland’s Global Times newspaper said in an editorial today. Zhang was greeted at the airport by people wearing T-shirts advocating independence, it said, an atmosphere not conducive to a political breakthrough.
Physical fighting between opposition party Taiwan Solidarity Union members and supporters of Zhang broke out at the Taoyuan airport, Taipei-based Central News Agency reported today.
Zhang and his counterpart, Wang Yu-chi, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Minister, met for two hours yesterday in the northern Taiwan city of Taoyuan, Xinhua said, and agreed to improve the communication mechanism between their two departments and work to move forward negotiations held under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in 2010.
The two met in February in the former Chinese capital of Nanjing in what was the first official contact between the two governments since Chiang Kai-shek fled the mainland during a civil war in 1949.
“My flight from Beijing to Taipei took me less than three hours. But it took us 65 years to make that flight possible,” Zhang said during the meeting, Xinhua reported.
Zhang will travel to New Taipei today then to Kaohsiung and Taichung meeting mayors as well as experts, college students, farmers, fishermen, business people and others, Xinhua said. Taiwan will hold mayoral elections in November.