TAIPEI: China and Taiwan are gearing up for their first government-to-government meeting in more than six decades on Tuesday—but the an analyst says the renewed political ties between the former bitter rivals may still be a long way off.
The Taiwanese government’s Wang Yu-chi, who oversees the island’s China policy, is scheduled to fly to the mainland on February 11 to meet his counterpart Zhang Zhijun, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office chief, for talks set to last until February 14.
The meeting in Nanjing, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, is the fruit of years of efforts to normalize relations and marks the first official contact between sitting governments since the pair’s acrimonious split in 1949.
That year, two million supporters of the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan—officially known as Republic of China—after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists.
Ever since, the island and the mainland have been governed separately, both claiming to be the true government of China, only re-establishing contact in the 1990s through quasi-official organizations.
When the much-anticipated visit was announced at a January press conference, Taiwan’s Wang said it had “crucial implications for further institutionalisation of the ties between the two sides of the Straits”.
“It has a symbolic meaning. It introduces more confidence and trust between the two sides,” Jia Qingguo, an international studies professor at Peking University said of the meeting, adding that it could bring about modest improvements in cooperation.
While Taiwan is likely to focus on reaping practical outcomes from the visit, such as securing economic benefits or security assurances, Jia said, China has more of an eye toward long-term integration of the island.
Beijing views Taiwan as a rebel region awaiting reunification with the mainland, and has repeatedly refused to renounce the possibility of using force to take back the island if necessary.
“From the mainland perspective, [China] probably attaches more importance to accelerating the process of economic integration, and also with a view to political unification in the long run,” Jia said.
Taiwan wants to use the visit to raise issues including proposed liaison offices, bilateral efforts on regional economic integration and better healthcare for Taiwanese students studying on the mainland.
The political thaw of a decades-long stalemate comes after the two sides have made cautious steps towards economic reconciliation in recent years.