Historic meeting seals seismic shift for China and Taiwan

Protesters hold marked images of Chinese President Xi Jinping and anti-China signs during a protest ahead of his visit to Vietnam on a street in Hanoi in this file photo.

Protesters hold marked images of Chinese President Xi Jinping and anti-China signs during a protest ahead of his visit to Vietnam on a street in Hanoi in this file photo.


The presidents of China and Taiwan will meet this weekend in Singapore with a handshake that will mark a seismic shift in a relationship frozen in enmity since 1949.

When Taiwan’s leader Ma Ying-jeou meets his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping it will be an unprecedented official stamp on a seven-year rapprochement that has seen the launch of direct flights, trade deals and a tourism boom as the two sides have forged previously unthinkable ties.

Their split at the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949 was the start of decades of hostility as self-ruled Taiwan forged its own identity and developed into a democracy, while Beijing insisted it was still part of its territory to be reunited by force if necessary.

The island became a cold war outpost with the United States its major ally, committed to defending Taiwan against any Chinese aggression.

But when Ma came to power in 2008 promising better relations would lead to prosperity, ties swiftly warmed with high-level talks resumed for the first time in over 10 years.

Political sensitivities have meant the burgeoning relationship has not been overtly played out — the first government-to-government meetings only took place last year. Now it will be formally sealed at the highest level.

China hailed the talks as a milestone in a dispatch on the state Xinhua news agency that said the two sides would “exchange views on promoting the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations,” referring to the stretch of water that separates them.

“For the past seven years… the two sides have built up mutual trust and opened up a path of peaceful development,” it cited Zhang Zhijun, head of the mainland’s Taiwan affairs office, as saying.

There were few other details on the substance of the summit. Ma’s spokesman said that the goal is to “secure cross-Strait peace,” but that there would be no agreement signed nor any joint statement issued.


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