Having already overseen a spectacular warming of ties with mainland China, with 18 signed cross-strait agreements to show for it, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took the latest step in his National Day speech on Oct. 10, approving a plan to allow both sides to set up representative offices on each other's soil. But permitting Chinese officials to have a permanent presence on the de facto independent island is a controversial step, drawing inevitable comparisons to Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, which is widely seen as meddling in politics there.
On Sunday, Lin Join-sane, the new chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and as such Taiwan's top cross-strait negotiator, wrapped up a five-day trip to mainland China. At the top of his agenda were discussions with his mainland counterparts about a plan for the two countries to swap quasi-embassies to “serve the needs of businesses, students and the general public.” As the two sides have never formally recognized each other's existence, crafting amendments to the relevant laws -- not to mention establishing the proper diplomatic protocols -- will undoubtedly be a painstaking effort.
But those caveats do little to reassure the unification-wary Taiwanese political opposition, which fears that the representative office will help the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to tighten its grip on Taiwan's domestic politics and society.