The reunification of China may still be a long way off, but a major step forward was taken this week when China and Taiwan held their first government-to-government talks since they split 65 years ago.
The meeting was a symbolic yet historic move between the former bitter rivals. For the longest time, the two sides were practically on war footing with Taiwan perpetually bracing for an invasion that never came.
It is good that no such hostilities ever broke out. Nothing is more tragic than for one people to be so divided that some kind of civil war breaks out.
China versus Taiwan would have been a civil war because it would have pitted Chinese against fellow Chinese. All because the two sides had serious political differences. And in fact the present continued existence of the so-called Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan Island and its smaller islands is because there was civil war on the mainland between the then legitimate government of the ROC and the Communist Party’s armies. The ROC’s armies lost and the ROC leaders fled to Taiwan.
Today, most of the world—the Philippines included —adheres to a One China policy.
China is China, whether one refers to the mainland, Hongkong, Macau or Taiwan.
And while the reunification of Taiwan with the rest of China may be some time away, it is an eventuality as surely as night follows day.
One reason is the economy.
Taiwan has always had a robust economy, and the mainland followed suit until today China is one of the most potent economies in the world. This was achieved via the silent but actual abandonment of the communist economic system with its inefficient central planning.
When China abandoned the communist system economically, thereby allowing private ownership of business and the creation of a stock market, the Taiwanese could rightly have told them, “We told you so.”
Of course, the political system is another matter. China still has a one-party system, which Taiwan rejects.
This week’s high-level talks should pave the way for Taiwan being “absorbed” by China while still maintaining a measure of independence, much like Macau and Hongkong.
Taipei’s Wang Yu-chi met his Beijing counterpart Zhang Zhijun in Nanjing on the first day of the talks.
It is worth noting that China took the talks most seriously, to the extent that the meeting room was neutrally decorated with no flags visible and nameplates on the table devoid of titles or affiliations.
According to Wang: “The visit does not come easy, it is the result of interactions between the two sides for many years.”
Nanjing, in eastern China, was the country’s capital when it was ruled by the Kuomintang, or Nationalist, party in the first half of the 20th century.
Up until the time that the Philippines recognized China in 1971, it was the same Kuomintang party that dominated Chinese residents in the country.
Today, of course, Chinese-Filipinos are no longer beholden to either side. But they must be happy that the dream of One China may finality be reality in the not-too-distant future.
This week’s meeting is the fruit of years of efforts to improve relations. We pray that more positive steps are taken in the coming months and years for no other reason than that the possibility of hostilities breaking out between the two sides has been minimized.
Now if only China could be less of the bully toward the Philippines, then they could settle their differences over the Spratly islands more amicably.