Wang Daohan (汪道涵), China's top negotiator with Taiwan and a one-time Shanghai mayor and mentor to former Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin (江澤民), died yesterday morning in Shanghai, the official Xinhua news agency said. He was 90.
Xinhua did not provide details on the cause of death for Wang, whose official title was president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.
Wang's death comes almost exactly a year after that of his Taiwan counterpart, the late Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), who died of cancer in January at the age of 87.
Wang's group sent a contingent to Koo's funeral earlier this year.
SEF Chairman Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) has offered to visit Shanghai to pay his last respects to Wang. Chang however added that he would respect Wang's family's decision if his attendance would bring them inconvenience.
The Chinese authorities are currently studying Chang's offer and have not given definite words regarding the issue.
The SEF and ARATS are semi-official organizations set up by Taipei and Bejing, respectively, to handle cross-strait affairs in the absence of official ties.
Officials of the Mainland Affairs Council also expressed sympathy over Wang's death, saying that it represented a further loss to both sides of Taiwan Strait.
"We express deep condolences on the death of Wang Daohan, especially since Wang gave all he could to improve cross-strait relations and boost exchanges across the Strait. We deeply regret his death," said Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman You Ying-long, who is also SEF vice chairman and general secretary.
Stressing that the negotiations framework laid by Koo and Wang is a fine asset for both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the official urged Chinese authorities to fully understand the importance of cross-strait reconciliation and negotiations, and to continue working for peace and bilateral development across the Strait in the future.
Meanwhile, MAC Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) urged the Chinese government to allow Chang to attend the funeral, saying that it could be a turning point for positive development for the stagnant cross-strait ties.
In addition, Leaders of Taiwan's opposition parties offered their condolences after learning Wang's death.
"We are deeply saddened by Mr. Wang Daohan's death. He has played a pivotal role in cross-strait relations over more than 10 years," said Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), chairman of the opposition Kuomintang.
Ma Ying-jeou also expressed the hope of sending an envoy to attend Wang's funeral, but officials from Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office responded by saying that they would have to "ask ARATS."
People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) also paid tribute to Wang's death, expressing the hope that there will be others in China that carry the same weight as Wang who can help promote bilateral relations.
Soong and KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), were both received by Wang during their visit to China in Spring 2005.
Lien also offered to attend Wang's funeral.
Born in 1915 in eastern China's Anhui province, Wang rose to prominence during his tenure as mayor of Shanghai from 1980 to 1985, before going on to teach
PRC's top Taiwan negotiator passes away
economics at major universities in both Shanghai and Beijing.
He would become a mentor of Shanghai Communist Party head Jiang Zemin, who himself would go on to become China's most powerful man as the national Communist Party chief and President.
Seen as two figures instrumental in starting rapprochement between China and Taiwan, Wang and Koo held landmark talks in Singapore in 1993, after Beijing and Taipei agreed to their own interpretations of the "one China" principle in what is known as the 1992 consensus.
The Koo-Wang meeting was considered a major breakthrough in cross-strait relations as it marked the first high-ranking contact between the two sides since the KMT forces retreated to Taiwan nearly five decades earlier after being defeated by the Communist of China in a civil war in 1949.
The meeting opened up regular dialogues between the SEF and ARATS in the following years, including the second Koo-Wang meeting in Shanghai in 1998, which laid the framework for cross-strait reconciliation.
Bilateral communications however came to a stop in 1999, when Taiwan's then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) redefined ties as "special state-to-state" relations, which forced Wang to cancel a scheduled visit to the island.
Bilateral ties have been deadlocked since then and have worsened since pro-independence Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) came into power in 2000 seeking to assert the island's sovereignty.
Yang Jian, deputy secretary-general of the Center for Taiwan Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing is not likely to make a quick decision on the choice of Wang's successor, as the operations of ARATS are mainly taken care of by its deputy chairman, Li Bingcai.
Yang however added that only when dialogue between SEF and ARATS resumes will Beijing start to consider naming a new ARATS chairman, noting that it should be someone who is devoted to cross-strait affairs and who has good understanding of international and cross-strait relations.
A memorial service will be held on December 30 to commemorate Wang.