Despite Optics of Zhang’s Visit, Taiwan Remains Wary of China’s Intentions

Despite Optics of Zhang’s Visit, Taiwan Remains Wary of China’s Intentions
China's Taiwan Affairs Council Minister Zhang Zhijun and Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi, Taoyuan County, Taiwan, June 25, 2014 (Kyodo via AP Images).

Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, recently concluded a four-day visit to Taiwan. He is the highest-ranking official from the People’s Republic of China ever to have visited Taiwan, making the trip something of a milestone in relations across the Taiwan Strait.

First up on Zhang’s itinerary was a meeting with his Taiwanese counterpart, Wang Yu-chi, the director of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. The two had held the first such government-to-government talks in February in Nanjing, where they agreed in principle to establish mechanisms for official communication, including representative offices. This time they moved one step closer to setting up representative offices, agreeing that staff could make humanitarian visits to detainees. They also agreed to look at greater participation for Taiwan in regional trade pacts.

But the most important purpose of Zhang’s mission was to show the Taiwanese public that Beijing has a softer, friendlier side. Zhang made a point of visiting nursing homes, nursery schools and other places where he could get to know “ordinary Taiwanese” during his stay. He also met with several mayors, including one—Chen Chu, the mayor of Kaohsiung—who belongs to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

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