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On Sunday, two Chinese government officials landed in Taiwan for the first official visit from the Chinese mainland in three years.
The visit, which comes amid heightened tensions, is seen by many as an attempt to demonstrate more friendly relations between the two countries.
The head of the Chinese delegation was Zhang Zhijun, President Xi Jinping’s chief advisor on Taiwan. He and his team are on the island to discuss a proposed new economic agreement between the two countries which would see greater collaboration in areas such as finance, trade and cultural exchanges.
This is the first official trip from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May of 2008. While the two sides had previously made great efforts to bridge their differences, this visit carries little political symbolism, given their current strained relationship.
Ma’s government has riled China by pursuing closer ties with the United States and allowing Taiwanese to visit China without having to go through a lengthy application process, measures China has described as undercutting its sovereignty.
China views Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened to use force if it attempts to become a separate and independent nation.
The visit comes days before the 20th anniversary of the end of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising. While Taiwan has traditionally abstained from official comment on Tiananmen, President Ma took the rare step of calling for a probe into the military crackdown in Beijing two weeks ago, prompting a furious reaction from the Chinese government.
Only time will tell how successful this first official Chinese visit to Taiwan will be. The two sides are sure to broach many sensitive issues and neither party appears ready to compromise on their respective positions. In the light of the current tensions, Sunday’s visit may be just a small step towards improved relations between China and Taiwan.