IN A move hailed as a historic milestone for cross-strait ties, Chinese and Taiwanese officials will be shedding their so-called "white gloves" when they shake hands next month.
Both sides are meeting formally on a government-to-government basis - the first such meeting since a civil war between the then ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party split China, and the KMT fled to Taiwan in 1949 where it set up its own government.
Contact resumed in the early 1990s but was sheathed in the form of semi-governmental organisations - hence the term "white gloves" - to avoid any official recognition of each other.
Ties between the two sides have improved considerably since Taiwan's China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou first took office in 2008, but this meeting will take relations to a new level.
China's Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, who heads the Taiwan Affairs Office, and Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council chief Wang Yu-chi are meeting on Feb 16 in Nanjing, reported Taiwan's pro-unification newspaper United Daily News (UDN) on Monday.
"This is historic," said Dr George Tsai, a political scientist at Chinese Culture University.
Mr Ma said the meeting is an "inevitable" step in cross-strait relations, the Central News Agency reported on Sunday.
Both sides will come to it with their own agendas. Beijing is keen to kick-start political dialogue that could lead to reunification.
And Taiwan wants to achieve objectives such as the right for its officials to visit Taiwanese arrested on the mainland, said Dr Tsai.
It also hopes to participate in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the free trade pact now being negotiated between ASEAN and its trading partners, said Professor Chen I Hsin of Tamkang University.
Beyond that, a major fillip will be a meeting between the two sides' leaders, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr Ma, during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November which Beijing is hosting, he added.
For now, the logistics of the meeting appear to be wreathed with symbolism while carefully side-stepping minefields.
China is "creating goodwill" by choosing to meet in Nanjing - China's capital before the civil war - said Dr Tsai. "Otherwise, it may seem like Wang is going to Beijiing to kowtow, which will send out the wrong message here."
Still, the meeting will be ringfenced with certain conditions. UDN said China has stipulated that there will be no mention of Taiwan as "the Republic of China", its constitutional name and that of mainland China under KMT rule; and no mention of democracy and human rights.
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