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China's 'silent treatment' of Taiwan closer to ending

Taiwan's vice-president elect meets with mainland China about a cross-straits economic stimulus plan.

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A landmark meeting Saturday between Taiwan's vice president-elect and China's president Hu Jintao has raised hopes for the first cross-strait talks in a decade. But analysts say many pitfalls lie ahead – and any breakthrough likely to be economic, not political.

"It [was] an ice-breaking meeting, not an ice-melting one," said Richard Bush, a cross-strait relations expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The meeting came just three weeks after the Kuomintang's (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou and running mate Vincent Siew won in a landslide victory on a platform promising cross-strait deténte.

One question had been whether China would engage Mr. Ma's government. Now, the answer is a clear "yes." By agreeing to meet Mr. Siew at the annual Boao Forum for Asia on Saturday, Mr. Hu signaled China's willingness to enter into dialogue with Taiwan's new government after eight years of "silent treatment."

Now begins a delicate diplomatic courtship – however awkward. When Siew stepped off his plane, a top Chinese official in charge of Taiwan affairs greeted him with open arms, reaching out for a hug. Siew responded stiffly, trying to pull back to a more formal handshake.

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