Two correspondents from the Xinhua News Agency made history Thursday as the first mainland correspondents allowed to reside temporarily in Taiwan to gather news.
Journalists Fan Liqin and Chen Binhua started their historic mission in Taipei, turning a new page in media exchanges between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits.
Observers believe the trip will boost mutual understanding and ultimately strengthen the ties between the two sides.
In a report filed from Taipei Thursday, Fan and Chen said the road to opening up press exchanges across the Straits has been rocky for the past 13 years. Their presence in Taiwan was the result of the efforts by media persons on both sides of the Straits, they wrote.
The two reporting positions are set to rotate on a regular basis.
The media exchange was nonexistent until September 1987, when two correspondents from Taiwan's Independent Evening newspaper began their visit to the mainland via Japan, the first trip to the mainland by Taiwan correspondents since 1949.
One correspondent from Xinhua and another from the China News Agency became the first mainland journalists to enter Taiwan for news coverage in 42 years when they went to the island in August 1991 to cover an incident caused by a fishery dispute across the Straits.
In May of 1992, a joint media group from both the mainland and Taiwan visited the Three Gorges region on the Yangtze River, marking the first joint media coverage by correspondents from the two sides in decades.
Four months later, a group of 18 mainland correspondents visited Taiwan in a move seen as the official beginning of media exchanges between the two sides. In September 1994, leading figures of 16 major media organizations in Taiwan visited the mainland.
Five years ago, the mainland, for the first time in decades, began to allow Taiwan correspondents into the mainland on a rotating basis to cover news.
To date, seven media organizations in Taiwan have sent journalists to the mainland on a rotating basis, and a total of about 5,000 Taiwan correspondents have visited the mainland; about 200 mainland correspondents have visited Taiwan.
During the past few years, exchanges between Taiwan and mainland media organizations have been on the rise in the form of mutual visits, and co-production of TV programs and co-sponsoring of conferences.
People are pleased to see more and more press exchanges between the two sides, wrote Fan and Chen, and reporters have been working to promote the exchange.
On the part of the mainland, government departments and leaders have also worked actively to promote the exchange, the two correspondents said.
Vice-Premier Qian Qichen reiterated last June the government's position on this matter when meeting visiting leaders of Taiwan media organizations.
At the meeting, Qian also called on Taiwan media organizations to play a greater role in promoting cross-Straits press exchanges.
The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, which approves applications from Taiwan correspondents for coverage in the mainland, has simplified the approval process in the past few years.
But fewer mainland correspondents have been allowed to visit Taiwan than vice versa, Fan and Chen pointed out.
They wrote that the process of approving mainland journalists' applications is still complicated and there are unreasonable restrictions in related regulations of the Taiwan authorities.
According to some Taiwan media comments, Thursday's trip to Taiwan by mainland correspondents should have taken place a decade ago, which observers say reflected the wishes of journalists at the two sides of the Straits.
Though mainland reporters are allowed to reside temporarily in Taiwan for new coverage, media people across the Straits are still expecting more two-way exchanges so that they can play their role in improving the understanding between the two sides and promoting the development of the cross-Straits relations as a whole, according to Fan and Chen.