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Historic China-Taiwan talks to begin on Tuesday

Taiwan's chief policymaker on China will meet his mainland counterpart in China's southern city of Nanjing on Tuesday. The meeting will be the highest-level official discussion between the two sides since their split in 1949.

TAIWAN: Taiwan's chief policymaker on China will meet his mainland counterpart in China's southern city of Nanjing on Tuesday. The meeting will be the highest-level official discussion between the two sides since their split in 1949.

They will be discussing the creation of representative offices, as well as Taiwan's participation in international bodies.

China's Zhang Zhijun and his Taiwanese counterpart, Wang Yu Chi, met briefly for the first time during an APEC meeting in October 2013. Their meeting with each other was considered warm and friendly.

Mr Zhang, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said: "As the top officials in charge of cross-strait affairs, (Taiwan's Mainland Affairs) Minister Wang Yu Chi and I should have more exchanges to increase mutual understanding."

It was the first time Beijing had acknowledged Taiwan's top official on cross-strait relations, and now the stage is set for their first formal meeting in China.

This is the clearest indication yet that the two sides are ready to bring cross-strait contact to the next level.

However, analysts said the meeting will still be held under the framework of the 1992 Consensus, where the two sides agree that there is only one China, but each with its own interpretation. Despite that, the meeting is still widely viewed as the start of political dialogue across the Taiwan straits.

Alexander Huang, a professor at Tamkang University, said: "There's an understanding across the Taiwan Straits that we need to touch the untouchable. But how fast, we don't know. This Wang-Zhang meeting is definitely the first meeting that we'll be able to witness how Taiwan and China manage their future political relations."

Cross-strait trade and tourism have boomed since President Ma Ying Jeou came into office in 2008, but political contacts have stagnated.

The majority of Taiwanese are still resistant to a political reunification with the mainland, with many preferring the status quo.

Because of this, analysts expect little progress from the meeting.

Professor Chang Ya Chung with National Taiwan University, said: "The most essential political issues that should be addressed include defining the political status of the two sides, signing of a peace accord, and building a cross-strait military mutual trust mechanism. But these are issues that President Ma is not going to address before he steps down."

Time however, is of the essence for Taiwan, as its economic integration with the regional markets requires Beijing's blessing. Analysts said this will put pressure on Taipei to think more deeply about political negotiation with the mainland. 

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