Meeting of Xi and Ma in Beijing?

CHINA and Taiwan have broached the topic of a meeting between their presidents - Mr Xi Jinping and Mr Ma Ying-jeou respectively - on the sidelines of the Apec Summit to be held in Beijing in November, the first time such a meeting has been discussed officially by both sides.

Speaking after a meeting with his mainland counterpart Zhang Zhijun on Thursday last night, Mr Wang Yu-chi, Taiwan's official in charge of mainland affairs, said: "We each presented our stance on this matter." He did not give any more details.

Separately, Mr Zhang confirmed that he and Mr Wang had discussed the subject. He also said that he hopes to visit Taiwan in the first half of the year, adding that "it's up to the hosts".

It was the second meeting in two days for the two officials.

The venue on Thursday was Shanghai's Friendship Hotel, where Mr Wang Daohan and Mr Koo Chen-fu, the then respective heads of the quasi-official bodies handling cross-strait relations in mainland China and Taiwan, met in 1998.

Together with a landmark meeting held in Singapore in 1993, the so-called "Wang-Koo" meetings greatly improved ties between the two sides. Both envoys died in 2005.

Mr Zhang and Mr Wang head China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) and Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) respectively. On Tuesday in Nanjing, where the first official contact between the two governments took place, both officials agreed to formalise regular contact between both sides.

On Thursday, Singapore said it welcomes the inaugural meeting and the institutionalisation of regular exchanges between the officials-in-charge of cross-strait relations from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

"This is yet another significant milestone in the development of cross-strait relations since the landmark 1993 Wang-Koo talks in Singapore, which has helped to promote peace and stability in the region," said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Earlier in the day, Mr Zhang visited the grave of Mr Wang Daohan. There, he placed a flower wreath while crafting a message to the late cross-strait envoy, saying that he "today can reassure him that cross-strait relations have achieved a number of milestones and that development is gaining in momentum", according to the Xinhua news agency.

His Taiwanese counterpart, meanwhile, spent the day in a closed-door session with academics from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. He also visited the Shanghai Media Group where he called on the mainland to relax controls over Taiwanese news websites. Currently, these are kept outside the Chinese firewall.

Mr Wang also expressed the hope that more Taiwanese movies and television shows may be broadcast in China.

A minor kerfuffle arose when the academy's vice-president Huang Renwei, in his opening remarks, referred to Mr Wang as the "Taiwan territory's MAC's person-in-charge".

Asked if this was meant to downplay Taiwan's status - in lieu of earlier protocol during which Mr Wang had been referred to as "Chairman Wang" in recognition of the MAC's parity of status with the TAO - Mr Wang said that the academics later referred to him as "Chairman Wang".

"Sometimes they cannot immediately change, and this is understandable. If there are some things they are not used to, or cannot make the breakthrough in their thinking, we will continue to work on it and hopefully develop the positive aspects of our relationship further," said Mr Wang, who returned to Taipei on Friday.

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