Thursday February 27, 2020

February 13, 2014

On Tuesday February 11, China and Taiwan held their highest level talks for more than sixty years.  This meeting marked the first government-to-government contact since the pair’s split in 1949.  Previous contact between the two sides has been conducted through semi-official foundations or through political parties, not by government ministers acting on official business.  Wang Yu-Chi of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, met with his counterpart Zhang Zhijun, of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, in the southern Chinese city of Nanjing.

The meetings marked a big step towards expanding cross-strait dialogue beyond economic and trade issues. Both sides seemed optimistic about these meetings.  Wang stated, “Being able to sit down and talk today was quite unimaginable in the past.”  And Zhang expressed that both sides, “should be both resolute to not let cross-strait relations suffer any more twists and turns, and never let it [the relationship] go backward.”  Additionally, Zhang stated that both sides should have “a little more imagination” regarding relations.

Moreover, the meeting held a lot of symbolic meaning.  Jia Qingguo, an international studies professor at Peking University, said the meeting introduced more confidence and trust between the two dies and that it could bring about modest improvements in cooperation.

After the historic meeting, China’s state news agency Xinhua declared the two sides had agreed to open a regular communication channel, indicating a desire for increased communication between the two sides.  In order to do this, the two sides agreed to set up representative offices as early as possible.  Moreover, China and Taiwan agreed to deepen economic ties and deal with issues, such as medical care, for their students studying in each other’s universities.

This new communication mechanism will not replace talks that take place between China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and it’s Taiwan counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which focuses on detailed affairs and cross-Strait agreements.  Nor will it change the way other, similar, departments contact.  In fact, when explaining the mechanism, Zhang stated that after the creation of the new offices the two departments could, “just pick up their mobile phones and talk” instead of setting up a special hot line.

Although no monumental decisions were made, both sides appear to be very optimistic about the outcomes of the meeting.

The Taiwan’s affairs chief noted that the two parties meet amid great attention and with high hopes, but they bear grave responsibilities.  Ultimately, he believes that “the direction is a straightforward one and their purposes will not take long to fulfill.”

Zhang also expressed to Wang that “as chief officials on cross-Strait relations, we should talk more and understand each other better.  I think people on both sides would welcome that.”

So while casual optimism might be the best way to view these talks, one outcome we can surely expect from these talks is more talking.

For more articles on cross-strait relations, see the following articles:

CNN-“China and Taiwan Hold government-to-government talks for first time in 65 years

The Sun Daily– “Historic China-Taiwan talks start long road to closer ties

Taipei Times-China woos Taiwan with offshore common homeland

BBC– “China and Taiwan in first government talks

Xinhua– “Unimaginable cross-strait meeting breeds optimism

Reuters– “China, Taiwan agree to open offices after historic talks

Compiled and Edited by Madeline Fetterly