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Next step for cross-Straits talks

By Zhang Hua (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-10-11 11:08
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The Economic Cooperation Frame Agreement (ECFA), which will liberalize important aspects of the cross-Straits economic relations, went into effect Sept 12. The economic issues will find their solutions in the agreement. What topics should be the focus for the Beijing-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits(ARATS) and the Straits Exchange Foundation(SEF) talks in the future?

First and foremost, implementing the goals set in the ECFA and deepening economic cooperation. ECFA is just a framework agreement; it still needs lots of time and effort to make it effective. Talks on single issues such as trade in goods and services, investment protection and high-tech cooperation should also be held in the near future. According to the agreement, both sides will set up cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Committees, which will be responsible for future cross-Straits economic exchanges.

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Second, the next emphasis of the talks is to sign a cultural and educational exchanges agreement, or ECFA in cultural and educational areas. Both sides should take effective measures to intensify cultural exchanges, narrow the gap in the awareness of Chinese culture and enhance the identity of the Chinese nation. People across the Taiwan Straits share a common culture and history, but some differences remain in some aspects due to historic reasons. During the Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo reign, the Taiwanese were given an "anti-Communist education", and "de-China" education followed during Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian's terms in office. Meanwhile, according to statistics represented by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, over 50 million person-times, more than twice the total number of Taiwanese, have been to the mainland, but still two-thirds have never set foot on the mainland, and their image of the mainland remains negative.

Third, the ultimate goal is to prepare for negotiations on political and military issues. There is nothing but politics in the cross-Straits relations. Only when the political issue is resolved can cross-Straits relations become more solid. Although it is not yet time to discuss the key political issue between SEF and ARATS now, cross-Straits sides should do something to deal with it. Scholars have carried out a lot of research within their respective scopes, but there are few of cross-Straits contacts or exchanges. Dialogue on some sensitive issues can be seen as the first step to address these problems.

Overall, if we said negotiation on economic issues was the main task of the past two years, cultural and educational communication would be the emphasis of the next two years, followed by political and military issues.

Zhang Hua, research fellow of the Institute of Taiwan Studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, can be reached via E-mail: zhanghuaprc@yahoo.cn

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the China Daily website.