The recent remarks on agricultural and cultural issues by Chinese officials involved in Taiwan affairs indicated a new aspect of China's push for closer ties with Taiwan that is moving beyond trade.
Zheng Lizhong, a deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) under China's State Council, recently touched on a sensitive issue across the Taiwan Strait when he said in Beijing on May 25 that China hopes Taiwan will consider buying goods from China like soybeans and apples, which Taiwan imports from foreign countries.
Although Zheng also said China will not push Taiwan to lift its restrictions on imports of Chinese agricultural products, Taiwan should be prepared for the possibility of China raising the issue in future trade talks.
One of Taiwan's conditions to starting trade talks with China when President Ma Ying-jeou first took office in 2008 was that the restrictions on imports of agricultural products from China would remain in place.
The possibility of China raising the issue has become more likely since the Taiwan government has been giving increased attention to forging trade pacts with other countries, which will open up the Taiwan market to foreign goods and services.
With Taiwan making progress in its negotiations on such trade pacts, it is possible that China will ask for the same treatment agreed to with Taiwan's other trade partners.
Meanwhile, a visit to Taiwan at the end of May by Ye Kedong, another deputy director at the TAO, under the theme of cultural exchanges, also indicated that China plans to expand cross-strait links to other areas apart from trade.
In addition, China has implied a desire to put political issues on the agenda through closer economic relations, which will leave the Ma administration facing a more complicated situation influenced by economic, cultural and political factors.
Therefore, the Taiwan government should formulate a comprehensive strategy in response to these possible developments, especially as its efforts to promote global trade ties are expected to affect the dynamics of cross-strait relations. (Editorial abstract -- June 10, 2012) (By Kay Liu)