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China sends minister-level official to Taiwan for first time since their split in the 1940s

China has sent its first ever ministerial-level official to Taiwan for four days of meetings to rebuild ties with the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own, after mass protests in Taipei set back relations earlier this year.

Zhang Zhijun, minister of Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, reached the island's main airport just before noon Wednesday to speak privately with his government counterpart about cutting import tariffs and establishing consular-style offices helpful to investors and tourists.

China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s. China sees the island as part of its territory that eventually must be reunified — by force if necessary. In 2008, Beijing set aside its military threats to sign agreements binding its economy to that of the investment-hungry island.