TAIPEI (CNA) — Despite tense relations between Taiwan and China in the past four years, newly appointed Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman David Lee (李大維) said the two sides can work together for the people’s best interests.
Lee, a former foreign minister and a long-time diplomat who recently left the post of National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general, said on Friday, when he was formally named as the SEF chairman, that he wants to create benefits for people in Taiwan and China, ensure regional stability and the long-term development of cross-strait ties.
The SEF, established in 1991, is a semi-official intermediary body responsible for cross-strait affairs.
Lee said the series of special flights arranged to bring back Taiwanese stranded in China showed how the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can find a way to cooperate when it comes to issues involving people’s interests.
Hundreds of Taiwanese, however, were stuck in China’s Hubei province for months because the two sides argued over how to evacuate them.
Lee also cited President Tsai Ing-wen’s inaugural speech for her second term on May 20, in which she said “cross-strait relations have reached a historical turning point. Both sides have a duty to find a way to coexist over the long term and prevent the intensification of antagonism and differences.”
He stressed that everything between the two sides, no matter big or small, are all important and need to be handled seriously and professionally, in order to continue building interaction and goodwill.
The future of cross-strait ties lies in the people on both sides, whether they are Taiwanese working or studying in China, or Chinese students or spouses in Taiwan, Lee said.
Lee, who has been Taiwan’s representative to the United States, Canada, the European Union and Australia in his long career as a diplomat, took over the post from Chang Hsiao-yueh (張小月), another long-time diplomat who was in the job for over two years.
Chang, who was the first head of the Mainland Affairs Council in Tsai’s government before running the SEF, said Lee’s experience in the NSC and his deep understanding of global and cross-strait affairs will help his leadership at the foundation.
Beijing has taken a hard line against Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party since she assumed office in May 2016, blaming her for changing the status quo by not accepting the 1992 Consensus, a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then ruling Kuomintang (KMT) government and the Chinese government.
The consensus had been interpreted by the KMT as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging there is only “one China,” with each free to interpret what “China” means. Beijing has never publicly recognized or rejected the second part of the KMT interpretation.
Beijing has used both military and diplomatic pressure during President Tsai’s first term in office. It has flown military planes and sailed its aircraft carrier near Taiwan.
Taiwan has also lost seven diplomatic allies to China since Tsai assumed office, and was also recently excluded from the World Health Assembly for a fourth consecutive year because of Beijing’s opposition.
Tsai’s administration has in turn blamed China for changing the status quo.