Beijing sets up fund for cross-strait exchanges

PROVIDING BACKING::The fund has been established to encourage and develop cross-strait exchanges and support the Taiwan Affairs Office, a Chinese official said

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Sep 01, 2013 - Page 3

China has taken a new step to promote engagement across the Taiwan Strait by setting up a fund on Wednesday to help finance more civilian cross-strait exchange programs or activities in the future, according to local media reports.

It was the first Chinese fund created under the auspices of the Taiwan Affairs Office for promotion of cross-strait engagement, the reports said.

Meanwhile, some academics were quoted as saying that the Taiwanese government has become more reluctant to boost the establishment of a cross-strait military confidence-building mechanism due to a combination of factors.

The reasons included a lack of political trust between the two sides of the Strait, a failure to forge an internal consensus among Taiwanese and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) concern that such a cross-strait mechanism might prompt the US to reduce and even terminate arms sales to Taiwan, the academics said.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) said at the fund’s first board meeting in Beijing on Wednesday that the new fund marks an important step toward continued peaceful development of cross-strait relations.

“The fund underscores our determination to encourage and support cross-strait exchanges in a variety of fields,” he said, adding that the TAO, which is part of China’s State Council, hopes all board members will use the fund wisely to expand and deepen cross-strait civilian exchanges.

The board of governors did not elaborate on the fund’s scale, financial sources and operational regulations in its press release.

However, sources familiar with the matter said the money came from various Chinese government departments and major state-owned enterprises.

The establishment of the fund indicates that Beijing will not allow cross-strait engagement to cool down, the sources said.

Wang Fuqing (王富卿), former deputy of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), was elected president of the new fund.

“Beijing has decided to set up a new fund to facilitate expansion of cross-strait engagement because the ARATS has limited financial resources,” he said.

According to Wang, the new fund mainly aims to support the Taiwan Affairs Office in guiding the development of cross-strait exchanges.

Straits Exchange Foundation spokesman Ma Shaw-chang (馬紹章) said the foundation did not have prior knowledge about China’s decision to set up a new cross-strait fund.

“It may take some time to understand how the fund will operate,” Ma added.