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Exchanges to improve ties with Taiwan

By An Baijie  (China Daily)

10:30, March 24, 2013

The mainland's top official in charge of Taiwan affairs vowed on Friday to further improve cross-Straits ties through boosting non-governmental exchanges.

Zhang Zhijun, the newly appointed minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said mainland authorities will put forward more policies to make it convenient for Taiwan people to travel, work and start businesses on the mainland.

"We will do more practical things and good things for the Taiwan compatriots," he said. "We are going to create more opportunities for Taiwan people, especially for the young people, to fulfill their dreams on the mainland."

Zhang made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the 11th cross-Straits relations seminar held in Pingtan county, Fujian province. It was his first public speech since taking the new post.

Wang Yi, his predecessor, became minister of foreign affairs.

Zhang, former executive vice-minister of foreign affairs, called on Taiwan authorities to maintain positive communication with the mainland.

"Four-wheel drive SUVs are always more capable of overcoming obstacles than two-wheel drive vehicles," he said.

Zhang said that the newly elected central government will continue to promote the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations, and policies toward Taiwan will continue to improve.

The mainland's new leaders expressed their policies of peaceful development toward Taiwan during the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and the National People's Congress, he said.

Mainland authorities will continue to enhance cross-Straits cooperation in the education, tourism, finance, securities and insurance sectors, Zhang added.

Zhang spoke highly of the progress in cross-Straits ties over the past few years, saying that mutual political trust has continued to be established.

Cross-Straits trade reached a historic high of $168.96 billion last year. The mainland's investment in Taiwan increased 10-fold last year compared with the previous year, according to the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

The number of mainland tourists going to Taiwan reached nearly 69,000 during the Spring Festival holiday early last month, about 30 percent more than last year, China News Service reported.

Zhang told reporters after his speech that he expected to fulfill his dream, and that of his predecessor who expressed his pity at not having visited Taiwan.

Zhang admitted that existing political factors have made cross-Straits ties more complex and difficult to resolve, and both parties should think about how to address the problems.

Yang Kai-huang, a professor from the Department of Public Affairs of Taiwan-based Ming Chuan University, said that cross-Straits relations are influenced by many factors, including Taiwan's politics, the policy of the United States and Taiwan's participation in international events.

Yan Anlin, a researcher from the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said that political dialogue has become the most urgent need in cross-Straits relations. "Compared with the rapidly growing economic and cultural exchange, political dialogue has gravely lagged behind," he said.

Lien Chan, honorary chairman of Kuomintang, said during his visit to the mainland last month that think tanks could take the first steps to promote cross-Straits political dialogue.

Zhang also encouraged academic circles from both sides to search for possible means of political dialogue and reach a deeper consensus. "Just as Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday, there is no knot that cannot be undone between us, because we are fellow compatriots," he said.

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