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    Jun 26, 2014

    China official in Taiwan on charm offensive


    CHINA'S top official in charge of Taiwan ties arrived on the island yesterday to begin landmark talks aimed at wooing Taiwanese who remain suspicious about a pending trade pact and China's designs on Taiwan.

    "It took three hours for me to fly here from Beijing, but it took 65 years for both sides across the Taiwan Strait to come this far," said Zhang Zhijun, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, as he sat down for talks with Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Minister, Wang Yu-chi.

    "I come here full of sincerity in my heart," said Mr Zhang, the first head of the Taiwan Affairs Office to visit the self-ruled and democratic island.

    His four-day trip will focus not on the affluent capital Taipei, but on the poorer middle and south, which have benefited less from trade with China and where pro-independence sentiment can run deep.

    While China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has never ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its control, relations have improved markedly since China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008.

    China's charm offensive with Taiwan stands in contrast to its ties with several countries in Asia where bitter territorial rows have flared over maritime boundaries.

    China also recently denounced people in Hong Kong, where hundreds of thousands have been pushing for greater democracy.

    Mr Zhang's main talks, in Taoyuan just outside of Taipei, will be with Mr Wang.

    He will not meet Mr Ma, who has never held talks with senior Chinese officials as president.

    "This will be an opportunity for Taiwan's opposition and people who don't like the mainland to get to know Zhang Zhijun, to listen to him and understand that China wants to help, not harm, Taiwan's economy," said Zheng Zhenqing, assistant professor at Tsinghua University's Institute of Taiwan Studies in Beijing.