News / Asia

Taiwan, China Hold Landmark Talks on Mainland

Wang Yu-chi, left, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, shakes hands with Zhang Zhijun, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Nanjing, Feb. 11, 2014.
Wang Yu-chi, left, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, shakes hands with Zhang Zhijun, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Nanjing, Feb. 11, 2014.
William Ide
Taiwan and China on Tuesday held their first high-level political talks since their civil war ended 65 years ago.
 
Meeting in the southern Chinese city of Nanjing amid warming cross-strait relations, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council chairman Wang Yu-chi, and Zhang Zhijun, head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, both expressed amazement that they were able to arrange the meeting in the space of four months.
 
The two also disclosed that they held a 5 minute meeting on the sidelines of the Asian Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) last October in Indonesia, during which they agreed to make regular get-togethers a reality.
 
Taiwan's Wang said he hopes his visit can serve as a catalyst for further improved ties.
 
"We are able to sit down today for a meeting to discuss issues concerning both sides and we should cherish this peaceful and stable momentum," he noted. "I hope we can further promote the cross-strait relationship on the basis of the consensus reached previously."
 
Zhang said a "breakthrough" in Taiwan-China ties is possible, but that a fresh approach is needed.
 
"It's impossible to imagine in the past that we could sit here and meet," Zhang said. "We must have some imagination if [we want to] resolve some difficulties, not just [this] kind of meeting. We should also have [a] bigger imagination for cross-strait future development."
 
Dozens of reporters were on hand to cover the start of Wang's historic four-day visit, which will also include a trip to Shanghai with his 20-member delegation.
 
There is no official agenda for the visit, but many expect it to be a largely symbolic confidence-building measure.
 
In announcing the trip last month, Wang said he would not be dealing with sensitive political issues, but will help establish a communication mechanism to avoid misunderstandings.
 
For now, however, it is unclear just how far Tuesday's meeting could take relations. Speaking with reporters after the talks, neither side would respond to questions about whether Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou could possibly meet with China's leader Xi Jinping later this year on the sidelines of the APEC leader's summit in Beijing. 
 
"The heads of government departments in charge of cross-strait relations, as already has been mentioned, have just taken an important step," said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office when asked about a possible top-level meeting. "And where there is a first step, there is a second. From a long-term perspective of cross-strait relations, this mechanism that has been set up is already a very open approach."
 
Late last year, China's president urged the two sides to work to address their political differences, saying that issue cannot be postponed forever. Taiwan's president, however, says there is no urgency about holding political talks, and he would like the focus to remain on trade.
 
Both sides stressed, however, that regular meetings would not replace the semi-official organizations that have been managing ties between China and Taiwan for more than two decades.
 
During the meeting in Nanjing, China expressed its desire that Taiwan resolve lingering issues over a trade and services agreement that is currently held up in Taiwan's legislature. China says it should be resolved before the end of the year. Taiwan's Wang says he asked members of the Taiwan Affairs Office Tuesday to understand the differences between the two sides' political systems, and so the Mainland Affairs Council must respect the views of Taiwan's legislature.
 
During the meeting, Wang invited his counterpart Zhang to travel to Taiwan for the next round of talks. Zhang said he was "willing to visit Taiwan at a suitable time in the future," though no date has yet been set for such a meeting. They also discussed the issue of journalists reporting from both Taiwan and China. Currently, reporters from one side of the Taiwan Strait can only spend three months at a time in the other place.
 
A complicated past
 
Taiwan and China do not officially recognize each other. Taiwan split from China following a civil war in 1949, when Nationalists fled to the island after being defeated by Mao Zedong's Communists, but Beijing still regards it as a breakaway province that will someday be reunified with the mainland.
 
China has long claimed the self-ruled island is part of its territory, and finding a way past their political differences — let alone how they might address one another if they were to meet — has long been a sticking point.
 
Economic ties have improved in recent years, especially after the somewhat Beijing-friendly Ma Ying-jeou was elected president in 2008 and re-elected in 2012.
 
Gordon Chang, analyst and author of The Coming Collapse of China, said closer economic relations do not necessarily mean closer political ties. He told VOA he sees little chance of a political integration. "The overriding reality is that most of the people in Taiwan do not want to be part of the People's Republic," he stated. "And although Ma Ying-jeou might want a political accommodation with China, he's not going to be able to do it."
 
But Ching Chang, a Taiwan-based research fellow at the Society for Strategic Studies, told VOA many Taiwanese are taking a "wait and see" approach to relations with Beijing. "The majority, they want to keep the status quo, and wait and see. Because there is a certain level of uncertainty [about] what will be the future development of China. At least for the foreseeable future," he said. "There are many uncertainties. So most people take a very pragmatic attitude."
 
Some opposition legislators in Taiwan have expressed concern over Wang's trip, saying he should convey the Taiwanese people are concerned about human rights in mainland China.
 
The United States maintains only an unofficial relationship with Taiwan under its "One China policy," though it does support the Taiwanese government militarily.
 
VOA's Victor Beattie contributed to this report.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid