Taiwan, China launch new hotline following historic Ma-Xi meeting

By Christine Chou, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan–Mainland Affairs Council (MAC, 陸委會) Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) and the head of mainland China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO, 國台辦) Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) spoke via a newly introduced telephone hotline for the first time on Wednesday and exchanged New Year’s greetings. The move follows President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) proposal to set up a high-level hotline during the landmark meeting with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) in Singapore on Nov. 7. According to TAO spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光), the two senior officials spoke for approximately 30 minutes, beginning at 9 a.m.

The content of their conversation stretched across a range of issues, including cross-strait trade, the enrollment of mainland students in Taiwan and details on how the hotline would be used in the future.

Hsia and Zhang also talked about the achievements that both sides have previously made, particularly in successfully arranging for the respective leaders of Taiwan and China to meet, Ma said. The TAO stated that the opening of the hotline was a concrete takeaway from the Ma-Xi meeting. Also, the TAO expressed the hope that the hotline would facilitate smooth communication when emergencies between the two sides arise. Before the launch of the new hotline, there were already communication channels in operation between the two sides. However, direct calls were previously limited to deputy ministers, rather than the highest senior-level ministers. Local media have described this latest development as a step toward “more systematic relations” and a move with “historic significance.” Encrypted Phone Calls Calls made between senior officials will be made via corded telephones and phone calls will be encrypted. Calls will be delivered on speakers, so assistants can transcribe the conversations, according to local media. The telephone will be placed on a desk in Hsia’s office, on his left, alongside five other encrypted telephones.

The MAC stated that in the past seven years the government has promoted peaceful developments in cross-strait relations on the basis of the “1992 Consensus,” the presumption of ‘one China’ with different interpretations of what ‘one China’ means. It described the hotline as “another important step forward” in exchanges between mainland China and Taiwan, and stated it would help speed up communication and strengthen consensus.