China and Taiwan in first government talks


Taiwan has never formally renounced its decades-old claim to the whole of China

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China and Taiwan have held their first high-level talks since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Wang Yu-chi and Zhang Zhijun, the top cross-strait officials from each side, attended the four-day talks in Nanjing.

No official agenda was released for the talks, which are widely seen as a confidence-building exercise.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory. In the past, all talks have gone via quasi-official organisations.


The fact that talks are taking place in Nanjing is a nod to history - the city, at times, served as the capital when the Nationalists were in power more than 60 years ago.

Neither side is talking of any breakthrough during this week's talks - their differences remain stark.

Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory, insisting that it must be reunited with the mainland - by force, if necessary.

But since the election of Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008, relations between the sides have warmed considerably.

For Taiwan, there is no ignoring China - the world's second largest economy.

And China perhaps sees these talks as a useful opportunity to forge closer ties with Taiwan while a relatively pro-Beijing president remains in power on the island.

Mr Zhang, head of mainland China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said: "It's impossible to imagine in the past that we could sit here and meet."

"We must have some imagination if [we want to] resolve some difficulties, not just for such a meeting, we should also have a bigger imagination for cross-strait future development," he added.

Mr Wang, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, described the meeting as "a new chapter for cross-strait relations".

"For us to simply sit at the same table, sit down to discuss issues, is already not an easy thing."

Improving ties

Given the sensitivities, the meeting room had no flags on display, and the officials' nameplates had no titles or affiliations, the AFP news agency reported.

Beijing insists that Taiwan is part of China and has a stated aim of reclaiming the island.

Taiwan still calls itself the Republic of China and nominally claims the same territory as the Communist government in Beijing, although it does not press these claims.

China-Taiwan relations

  • China and Taiwan ruled by separate governments since end of the Chinese civil war in 1949
  • China's constitution claims Taiwan as part of its territory
  • Taiwan has never formally renounced its decades-old claim to the whole of China
  • China has offered a "one country, two systems" solution, like Hong Kong

The US is committed to defending Taipei, despite not formally recognising Taiwan as an independent country.

The situation has created a decades-long military stand-off between Beijing and Washington.

But cross-strait ties have improved since Taiwan's pro-Beijing President Ma Ying-jeou was elected in 2008.

Cross-strait flights began in 2008, and tourists from the mainland have boosted Taiwan's economy.

Trade agreements have allowed Taiwanese technology firms to expand massively, investing billions of dollars in the mainland.

In the papers

Newspapers and experts in China and Taiwan are upbeat over the talks.

"Face-to-face talks will help dispel suspicion between the two sides, given that messages passed through the two organisations are sometimes misinterpreted," Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies, tells the China Daily.

"The person responsible for cross-strait relations of both sides visiting each other and establishing a mechanism of communication confirms that the 'one-China framework' is beneficial for both parties in furthering understanding and deepening mutual trust…" writes People's Daily senior journalist Wu Yaming.

"There will certainly be some results following the meet, although it's uncertain in what form they will be made," Yang Lixian, analyst at the National Society of Taiwan Studies, tells the Global Times.

Taiwanese daily China Times says the current talks can address "practical issues" first and that can pave the way for a meeting between Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in November this year.

"There is no need for impractical fantasy of the outcome of the current meeting. It will be very precious if the meeting between Mr Ma and Mr Xi can be set up," says Taiwan's Apple Daily.

Compiled by BBC Monitoring

However, Mr Ma is unpopular and analysts say his governing Kuomintang party is likely to lose local elections later this year.

'Universal value'

The talks are the first formal government-to-government dialogue since the 1949 split.

For years, mainland China and Taiwan dealt with each other indirectly, though so-called friendship associations and trade groups, the BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing reports.

Amid all the smiles, tension remains: China refuses to retract its long-standing threat that it could eventually take back Taiwan, by force if necessary, our correspondent adds.

Taiwan negotiators are likely to propose the posting of permanent representatives on each other's territories.

But they will also face pressure to talk about press freedom after China refused accreditation to several media outlets.

"Press freedom is a universal value," Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.

"We've repeatedly said that the most important thing regarding news exchange between the two sides is the free and equal flow of information."

Many Taiwanese are sensitive to issues of press freedom, having lived under a dictatorship that tightly controlled the media until the 1980s.

Correspondents say Beijing's negotiators are likely to press for closer economic co-operation.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    i know history, or some of that, and i am born in mainland but now in hk. i think we should look forward rather than constrainted by history, caz' we are envolved into the unpleasant history but we should prepare well for the future. it is a good thing to see the two sides can stick together again, though they are not yet. i hope that they can trust and help each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    A welcome beginning. What matters most is the future of everyone's young people. The world's critical health problems cannot be addressed when divisions rooted in the rivalries of ancestors are allowed to fester. Chinese of all political views & backgrounds share fundamental exemplary commitments to education & harmony. Harness those energies to fight the environmental threat caused by pollution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    As an oversea Chinese, I consider both ROC and PRC as governments of divided China, similar to E/W Germany or N/S Korea.

    Reunification is the natural way forward. The question is how to achieve it peacefully. It's great see they decided to sit down and talk. Hundreds of years from now, history will remember the Ma and his pan-blue alliance as heros who worked to reunify the country peacefully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I was born in Taiwan. Ma government has a track record of betraying people for his personal interests. That is why many Taiwanese don’t trust his regime. Don’t be deceived. He won Taiwan general election by the support of China. This talk is only to return the favor to China. He is very selfish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Very glad to see the 2 sides are seeking ways to realize peace!
    Especially I live in Taiwan!

    It's not easy for Republic of China(Taiwan) & PR China(Beijing) to
    find a room to talk and keep bottom lines untouched.

    They are smart, and they're avoiding a potential war that will drag in USA and damage the world.


Comments 5 of 6


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