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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid