The leaders of China and Taiwan met on Nov. 7 for the first time in 66 years since the infamous civil war that split China into two – The People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland, and the Republic of China (ROC) on the island of Taiwan.
Despite no concrete consensus being reached on any particular issues between the two parties, the meeting itself can be seen as a sign of future stability and positive relations between China and Taiwan.
Ma Ying-jeou, President of Taiwan, called for mutual respect between both the Chinese and the Taiwan people in the backdrop of anti-Beijing sentiment that has been stirring within Taiwan; all the while with China’s mainland missiles pointed directly at the former region of China.
According to China’s President Xi Jinping, the Chinese people of both sides of the Taiwan Strait have the ability to solve their regional disputes.
“No force can pull us apart because we are brothers who are still connected by our flesh even if our bones are broken. We are a family in which blood is thicker than water,” Xi said.
In response to this, Ma stated that he would actively promote peace across the Taiwan Strait, and further, that their future relationship should be based on sincerity, wisdom and patience.
“Both sides should respect each other’s values and way of life to ensure mutual benefit and a win-win situation across the straits,” stated Ma, implicitly petitioning Xi to respect Taiwan’s democracy.
The Chinese Nationalist Party, known as the Kuomintang (KMT), historically fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to Mao’s Communist Party, resulting in the high degree of tension between the two states today, as the PRC has never recognized Taiwan’s sovereignty.
In addition, China itself has never specifically abstained from the use of force when it comes to retaining what it considers its “provinces” (e.g. Tibet), something that caused Ma to urge China to review its missile development, which Xi stated was not an issue in regards to Taiwan.
“I at least raised the issue, and told him that the Taiwanese people have questions and concerns about it, and hope he will treat it with importance,” Ma said.
Despite the opening of dialogues seen as a positive change in the international community, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader and presidential candidate of Tawian, Tsai Ing-Wen stated that she was disappointed by the discussions.
“We had expected President Ma to talk about Taiwan’s democracy, freedom and the existence of the Republic of China,” she said, in comments carried on Taiwanese television stations, referring to Taiwan’s official name. “More importantly, the Taiwan people’s right to choose freely. But he did not say a word of that.”
Despite the highly symbolic nature of the meeting, there are clearly issues that still need to be addressed between the two alienated nations, as both sides addressed each other as “ministers”, seemingly avoiding the title of “President” and thus not recognizing each opposite party as their respective head of state.
In addition, Chinese state television only showed Xi’s comments when it aired the meeting, further prompting insults in regards to Chinese media censorship and Taiwanese relations.