When push comes to shove in China’s relations with Taiwan, economics often takes priority over politics. In October, a visiting mainland official was shoved to the ground by protesters in Taiwan. But, in a region where far lesser slights have led to strong official rhetoric, this incident was largely brushed off.
About a week later, Chen Yunlin, president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, proceeded with his plan to visit the island. And the annual forum between Taiwan’s Kuomintang and China’s Communist Party is still scheduled to take place in Shanghai mid-December.
This year’s forum will address trade issues as well as cross-Strait banking and two-way investments. Li Weiyi, a spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said there was no way a "small group of people" could "sabotage" dialogue between the two sides.
Officials from Taiwan and the mainland signed an agreement in Taipei in November to introduce direct cross-Strait cargo flights, with up to 60 round-trips per month. They also agreed that direct passenger flights will be tripled to 108 per week, with China expanding the number of cities with air links to Taiwan from the current five to 21.
A further agreement should see the introduction of cross-Strait postal services.
The issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty remains a potential flashpoint, however. In his first phone conversation with US President-elect Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao urged him to halt the sale of US$6.5 billion in arms to the island. During his election campaign Obama supported the arms sales.
In mid-November, China’s Defense Ministry issued another statement demanding that the US end all sales to and exchanges with Taiwan’s military, which it said the US was using to "needle" China. To protest the sales, China said it had canceled some exchanges with US defense counterparts.