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More hopes on Ma
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Ma Ying-jeou's election as chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) yesterday is set to inject a new momentum into the developing relations between Taiwan and the mainland. Hopes have grown for him to do more and move further. And doubling as chief of KMT and island leader, he could draw more support for his cross-Straits policies and implement them more effectively.

Cross-Straits relations have improved dramatically since Ma became Taiwan leader in May 2008 after the ouster of Chen Shui-bian, who had pushed for the island's independence during his eight-year rule. Within two months of Ma assuming office, the two sides agreed to launch weekend charter flights.

Ma's efforts have paid off both economically and politically. Nearly 400,000 mainlanders have visited the island so far, earning $768 million in revenue for the local tourism industry. And Ma's success has helped raise his popularity rating on the island.

As KMT chairman, Ma can now take advantage of the institutionalized cooperation mechanism between the KMT and the Communist Party of China (CPC) to fine tune his mainland policies.

Since 2005 when Lien Chan, then KMT chief, visited the mainland and met with CPC head Hu Jintao, the two parties have established effective and sound platforms to enhance mutual understanding.

Given the absence of official links between governments across the Straits, exchanges between the two parties could serve as one of the best ways to strengthen mutual trust. That shows why Ma said the KMT-CPC exchange is "absolutely necessary" when he met with the KMT delegation for the annual KMT-CPC forum in Changsha early this month.

There is an established mechanism for the two sides of the Straits to negotiate on issues concerning daily people-to-people exchanges.

Talks between the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation have tackled such issues effectively.

But the KMT-CPC exchange mechanism's role would be irreplaceable when it comes to sensitive issues such as the establishment of a military security system of mutual trust and the signing of a peace treaty across the Straits.

Now that Ma has become KMT chairman, too, hopes have risen that it is feasible for him to meet with Hu in their capacities as heads of the two parties.

A survey conducted by Taipei-based Global Views Monthly last week showed most Taiwan residents want Ma to meet with Hu, believing a Ma-Hu meeting could ease cross-Straits tension further.

The survey sends a clear signal that a majority of the island's residents want peace and stability. Stronger economic integration has brought the two sides closer than ever, with the mainland being Taiwan's largest trade partner.

The internal politics in Taiwan and the complexity of cross-Straits ties should be considered despite high expectation for a Hu-Ma meeting.

But even if their meeting could not be facilitated soon, there is no reason for the two sides to slacken their efforts to further enhance mutual trust.

The most significant issue now is how to find more means to maintain the momentum of developing cross-Straits ties.

(China Daily July 27, 2009)

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