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Exchanges Facilitate Cross-Straits Relations

Four months after his historic "bridge-building" journey to the mainland in May, Taiwan-based People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong has set foot in the mainland once again. He arrived in Shanghai yesterday for a two-day Cross-Straits Non-Governmental Forum of Elites, which opens today in the business hub of the mainland.

The event, jointly held by the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the PFP, is expected to draw more than 140 experts, scholars and entrepreneurs from the mainland and Taiwan. The participants will offer their advice and suggestions about major topics such as the mainland's economic development strategy, the role of Taiwan's businesspeople in the mainland, direct cross-Straits air links, agricultural exchanges and the normalization of cross-Straits business and trade ties.

If Soong's earlier visit represented the efforts of himself and his party to help ease cross-Straits tension, then the current forum is apparently aimed at encouraging the involvement of all elite people. The event can be taken as a crucial step towards implementing the agreement reached between Soong and Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, to build a platform for exchanges across the Straits.

Besides providing an opportunity for cross-Straits communications on economic and trade issues, the forum will positively push cross-Straits relations towards peaceful and steady development.

Since Soong and former Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan made their landmark visits to the mainland, there have been growing calls from within the island for closer links with the mainland. The majority of Taiwan people have aspired to promote a win-win situation of mutual benefit across the Straits.

Responding to the common aspiration of the people, the KMT and PFP the island's two largest opposition parties have played an active role in strengthening cross-Straits exchanges. Their push for peaceful bilateral ties and stronger cross-Straits co-operation has already brought huge benefits to Taiwan people, in particular to farmers, businesspeople and students. It demonstrated the two parties' courage and determination to bear responsibility for safeguarding the fundamental interests of Taiwan people.

When the opposition parties are promoting cross-Straits reconciliation for the benefit of Taiwan people, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration is still bent on stirring confrontation across the Straits. Bound by strong ideology, the "pro-independence" DPP has engaged in hostile and provocative activities against the mainland to serve the party's self-interests.

While exaggerating the so-called mainland threat, Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian of the DPP has been publicly or covertly pursuing "independence" for the island. The DPP administration has also stood in the way of cross-Straits exchanges in a bid to isolate Taiwan from the mainland. These secessionist moves have fuelled tensions in the Straits and led to the stalemate in bilateral relations.

The DPP's selfish attempt has undoubtedly gone against the will of the people as well as the historical trend of closer integration across the Straits. Given emerging integration between regional economies, the DPP administration's closed-door policy threatens to further marginalize the island's economy.

The current wave of cross-Straits exchanges launched by the KMT, PFP and CPC are expected to encourage more people to support the development of peaceful cross-Straits ties. Wider and deeper exchanges will not only strengthen bilateral co-operation in wide-ranging fields such as the economy and culture but also facilitate an accelerated integration between Taiwan and the mainland.

(China Daily September 15, 2005)

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