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September 21, 2017

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China's Taiwan policy changed under Xi: expert

WASHINGTON -- A former secretary-general of Taiwan's National Security Council said Tuesday that since Xi Jinping (習近平) took the helm of China in March 2013, he has taken the initiative more than his predecessor and has paid more attention to the psychology of the Taiwanese people.

Speaking at George Washington University on changes in Taiwan's political environment, Su Chi (蘇起) said that China's policy toward Taiwan has changed to taking more of the initiative, in contrast with the past, when Taiwan took more of the initiative.

He said that the current visit by Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), head of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council, is ostensibly a reciprocal visit following a visit to China earlier this year by Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦), but the mindset behind China's policy toward Taiwan is leaning more toward taking the initiative, with the aim of gaining a better understanding of Taiwan and improving ties.

For this reason, Su said, Zhang is executing Xi's will. "Zhang's visit this time is a major step on the side of mainland China, different from in the past," he said.

Su noted that when Kuomintang (KMT) Honorary Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung met with Xi during a visit he made to China last year, Xi also brought up the question of unification of the two sides.

But Xi stressed that any unification will depend on the like-mindedness of the two sides, which Su said he had not heard voiced by China in the past, showing that the mainland has taken heed of the psychology of the Taiwanese people on the issue.

Xi also mentioned the historical scars between the two sides, which will require the further passage of time to smooth over. Su said that this, too, is a new direction for China.

Su said that Xi is different from his predecessor Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), adding that Hu focused on giving benefits by making concessions to "take care of" the Taiwanese people economically.

Xi, however, is more concerned about hearts and minds in Taiwan, which shows that he is different because of his previous experience in Fujian province, where a lot of Taiwanese businessmen have based themselves.

Xi was Fujian provincial head in 2000 and has experience in dealing with Taiwanese viewpoints.

On Zhang's visit to Taiwan even after recent massive student protests against a cross-strait trade-in-services pact, Su said that China's thinking is "I don't agree with you, so I want to engage with you more," which he said is in contrast with Taiwan's "I'm different from you, so I don't want to talk with you."

Su also said that Taiwan's political parties should reconcile in order to face and solve the problems facing the country.

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