02/11/2014, 00.00
CHINA - TAIWAN
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The "most important" talks between China and Taiwan since 1949 underway in Nanjing

Top officials from their respective cross-strait agencies are involved in talks aimed at (informally) bridging further the gap between the two sides. Beijing wants a free trade agreement; Taipei stresses the importance of freedom of the press. Source tells AsiaNews that "The status quo is not in question."

Nanjing (AsiaNews) - China and Taiwan today kicked off the first high-level talks since the end of China's Civil War (1945-1949).

Wang Yu-chi and Zhang Zhijun, respectively heads of the Mainland Affairs Council (in Taiwan) and the Taiwan Affairs Office (in China), are both attending the four-day talks in Nanjing.

The two sides will discuss a proposed free trade agreement, which is still held up in the Taiwanese parliament, and respect for freedom of the press by Beijing.

Although the two officials are not members of their respective government, they represent them.

Given the sensitivities, the meeting room had no flags on display, and the officials' nameplates had no titles or affiliations

"My main aim during this visit to the mainland is to promote mutual understanding between the two sides," Mr Wang told reporters, adding that he hoped the visit, which "did not come easily", would go smoothly.

With the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek and what was left of the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party) fled to the island of Formosa (Taiwan), where they re-established the Republic of China.

Since then, hundreds of families were torn apart without the possibility of reunification and the relations between the two sides became non-existent.

Taipei sees itself as the capital of the whole of China whilst Beijing views Taiwan as a "breakaway province" that must be brought back into the fold of the motherland.

Taipei began a cautious rapprochement with Beijing in the 1980s, lifting a ban on contact with the mainland (1991) and trade (2001).

The Year 2008 saw cross-strait relations thaw when the two countries signed an historic agreement on tourism and direct flights (on weekends) between Beijing and Taipei.

In 2010, the two sides signed an Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which strengthened bilateral ties by allowing the free movement of goods, labour and currency.

A Taiwanese source told AsiaNews that the emphasis on these talks "is understandable, but overstated. Indeed, both sides want to ratify the free trade agreement, which will give Beijing a new big market in which to compete whilst Taipei will have an important customer for its cutting-edge technologies. But a political solution to the current status is not conceivable."

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