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September 26, 2017

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Hsieh thawing ice between DPP, China ... somewhat

For Frank Hsieh, the first person from the very top of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to visit China, the pressure and significance of it all must be immense.

The purpose of the trip is perhaps not too political — to attend a bartending competition in Beijing — but the political implications are resonating across the Taiwan Strait.

Hsieh, a former premier of Taiwan and a former chairman of the main opposition party as well as a potential contender for the next presidency, is trying to break the ice that has been blocking the DPP's voyage across the Strait.

The ice is composed of a mixture of the DPP's hard-core pro-independence ideology and Beijing's supreme intolerance of even the slightest gesture toward Taiwan declaring a permanent separation from the mainland.

Hsieh's trip does not necessarily mean that the icy relationship between the DPP and the Chinese communists is melting, but without such a step, or any similar ones by other party leaders, it may never.

Tsai Ing-wen, the highly charismatic former DPP chairwoman who lost gracefully in the presidential election in January, has given Hsieh her blessings for the five-day visit, which starts Oct. 4. She described it as Hsieh's "brave step forward."

Not everyone within the party agrees. Former Vice President Annette Lu has said that she would not make such a move if she were in his shoes.

And it is not difficult to imagine the anger of those die-hard pro-independence fundamentalists.

But the DPP cannot just rely on fundamentalists to win any elections, as they number too few and the majority of Taiwan's voters adopt a more or less centrist position.

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