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After Signing Business Deal, Taiwan, China Talk About Cultural Ties

Cai Wu (C), Chinese Culture Minister, speaks to journalists at Taoyuan International Airport, 02 Sep 2010

Cai Wu (C), Chinese Culture Minister, speaks to journalists at Taoyuan International Airport, 02 Sep 2010

Since President Ma Ying-jeou came to office in 2008, Taiwan has forged closer economic ties with China. Now officials from both sides hope to strengthen cultural relations as well.

The highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Taiwan in 12 years, Culture Minister Cai Wu, spent the past week working to broaden cultural exchanges between Beijing and Taipei.

Emile Sheng is Taiwan's Council of Cultural Affairs minister. At a cross-strait cultural forum this week, he described his hopes for cultural ties.

Mr. Sheng says that future exchanges could include cultural events, discussions on cultural asset preservation, and setting up official offices on both sides. He also hopes to establish a transparent mechanism for cultural exchanges.

He says he wants to promote cultural exchanges under the condition that they are done with mutual respect and create a win-win situation for both sides of the strait.

Taiwan and China have been governed separately since 1949, when Nationalist forces came to the island after losing a civil war in China. Beijing considers the island its territory. Relations have long been hostile, but have warmed recently under Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou.

The mainland's culture minister, Cai, said on his visit that since Taiwan and China have recently signed a historic economic agreement, it is time to sign a cultural exchange agreement as well. Before leaving Wednesday, he said cultural exchanges will let the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait understand each other better.

Even without a formal agreement, artists from both sides often perform in each other's cities. The palace museums of Beijing and Taiwan also have held joint exhibitions.

In the past few years, China and Taiwan have increased direct transportation links, signed an economic cooperation deal and increased educational exchanges.

No culture agreement was signed during Cai's trip. But Sheng says he hopes to set up an office in mainland China, the first time a Taiwan culture minister has made such a statement.