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 China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid