February 16, 2015 / 9:50 AM / 3 years ago

Taiwan appoints military official as new China affairs chief

TAIPEI (Reuters) - A military official and former deputy minister of foreign affairs was named on Monday as the head of Taiwan’s China policy-making body. The previous chief announced his resignation last week.

Andrew Hsia, currently the Deputy Minister of National Defense, will become Minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which handles cross-strait policy with its Chinese counterpart, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.

“Hsia has extensive administrative experience and policy-implementation capabilities,” a statement on the website of Taiwan’s executive branch said. “[He] will continue to promote the development of cross-strait relations.”

The former head of MAC, Wang Yu-chi, said last week he would resign in protest at a court ruling clearing a former deputy of leaking sensitive information to mainland China.

Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, commented on the appointment by expressing hope for continued “positive interactions,” according to the mainland Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Hsia, who also used to be a deputy foreign minister, takes office as engagement between the two sides continues to increase, encompassing everything from finance to tourism.

Cross-strait business ties have surged to their most extensive in six decades, supported by the policies of Taiwan’s China-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou.

Despite warming cross-strait relations, Taiwan’s ruling Nationalist party took a major drubbing in recent local elections largely seen as a referendum on ties with China.

This followed a weeks-long occupation of Taiwan’s legislature last spring by students and activists in protest against a trade deal with China.

The Nationalists fled to Taiwan after loosing a civil war to the Chinese Communists in 1949. China considers Taiwan a renegade province, and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control.

Reporting by Michael Gold; Additional Reporting by Adam Rose; Editing by Neil Fullick

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