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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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 Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More