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CHINA, TAIWAN SCHEDULE FORMAL TALKS

January 29, 2014

 

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister, Wang Yu-Chi, announced that on February 11 he will meet with China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Director Zhang Zhijun in the mainland Chinese city of Nanjing. The city of Nanjing carries historical resonance as it was the capital city of the Nationalist government, or Kuomintang (KMT), before it was forced out by the Communist Party and retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Wang will also travel to Shanghai for meetings on February 13 before returning to Taiwan on February 14.

This meeting will be the first official government-to-government meeting since the Chinese Civil War six decades ago. “The meeting is a considerable breakthrough because this is the first time that two government officials are going to meet in their formal capacities, representing a certain level of mutual recognition,” said Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

Although this will be their first official one-on-one meeting, Wang Yu-Chi and Zhang Zhijun have met before. They both sat in on a meeting between Taiwan’s former Vice President Vincent Siew and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Bali in October 2013. It was during this meeting that Xi stated his intention to “push forward the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.” At the APEC summit Xi additionally stated that the cross-Strait political issues “must reach a final resolution…these issues cannot be passed on from generation to generation.” This statement produced a flurry of speculation as to whether Xi is aiming to resolve the Taiwan issue.

Despite these speculations, Wang Yu-Chi has reassured Taiwan that he is not going to China to solve the cross-Straight political puzzle. Instead, the purpose of his meeting with Zhang Zhijun is to “increase mutual understanding and interaction,” according to a statement by Mr. Wang on Tuesday during a press conference with the Taipei Times. Mr. Wang added, “We don’t intend to talk about very political issues. If Zhang Zhijun is to come visit Taiwan, I would also hope that he doesn’t mention peaceful reunification.”

Moreover, Joseph Wu, executive director of the Democratic Progressive Party(DDP)’s Policy Research Committee, publically issued a warning to Wang not to discuss certain political issues. These issues include the “one China principle,” a possible peace agreement, or mutual military trust-building. Instead, Mr. Wang was advised to focus on human rights issues and renegotiating the cross-strait service trade agreement. The DPP is the opposition political party in Taiwan.

Similarly, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a statement released on Xinhua, China’s state news agency, that the talks were “an important move.” Implying that in the talks next week, no significant political resolution would be accomplished. Instead, these talks are one-step in a long process.

President Ma said in November that the time is not yet right for Taiwan to delve into political matters. Any potential peace treaty with China would first have to gain the support of the Taiwanese public through a referendum. Despite this, Taiwanese media is already speculating about the possibility of the February 11 meeting leading to an eventual meeting between Presidents Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping.

According to China Daily, Ma expressed his hopes for the meeting, “We hope and believe that this important step on both sides of the Straits will be conducive to communication and understanding as well as to the fostering of future ties.”

For now, it does not appear as if either Taiwan or China are stationed to resolve the politically complex and complicated cross-Strait issue.

For further coverage on China, Taiwan’s Formal Talks, please see the following news sources and commentary

Taipei TimesMAC Head Promises no Political Talks on Agenda

China Daily Warming of Taiwan Ties seen in Exchanges

The Wall Street JournalChina, Taiwan Schedule Formal Talks

The DiplomatChina, Taiwan to Hold First High Level Meeting Since 1949

BloombergFirst China, Taiwan Government Meeting Set

AljazeeraTaiwan Announces Landmark Visit to China

Complied and Edited by Madeline Fetterly