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, the minister of Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, arrived on Wednesday to meet 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.

In 2008, Beijing set aside military threats to sign agreements binding its economy to the island.

But in March, hundreds of student-led protesters forcibly occupied parliament in Taipei to stop ratification of a two-way trade pact.

Thousands of people joined the 24-day action, dubbed the Sunflower Movement, to demand an end to Taiwan's engagement with China, which they still see as an enemy.

Zhang is expected to try to head off any protests by shunning strong political statements while talking to students, low-income people and a figure in Taiwan's anti-China chief opposition party.

Source: AP