Taiwan names new head of China affairs agency

TAIPEI • Taiwan has named former foreign minister Tien Hung-mao as the new head of a semi-official body responsible for conducting day-to-day business with China, after Beijing cut communications with the agency in June amid political tensions.

The appointment of Mr Tien, foreign minister between 2000 and 2002, to head the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) comes as Taipei-Beijing relations remain cool since Ms Tsai Ing-wen was elected Taiwan's President in May.

China has been unsettled by Ms Tsai's refusal to endorse Beijing's "one China" principle. As well as halting contacts between the SEF and its China counterpart, contacts were also suspended between Taiwan's China policy body, the Mainland Affairs Council, and China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

The Taiwan Affairs Office said in response to Mr Tien's appointment that relations could improve only if Taiwan accepted the "1992 Consensus" - a deal between China's Communists and Taiwan's then ruling Nationalists under which both agreed there is only one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what that means.

Experts said Mr Tien, who is the current chairman of Taiwan's Institute of National Policy Research, might find it tough to re-establish communications with China in the current political climate.

"(The appointment) is not going to help improve the current Taiwan-China ties much," said Professor Alex Huang of Tamkang University, Taiwan. "Within the political circles of Taipei and Beijing, people know Tsai holds her cards very close to her chest. Whoever takes the position will have to do things at the tempo she desires."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan names new head of China affairs agency'. Print Edition | Subscribe