Home / News / World /  China, Taiwan start ‘new chapter’ at meet

Nanjing/Taipei: China and Taiwan agreed to set up a communication mechanism after historic talks in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing on Tuesday, the first formal contact between the governments in 65 years.

Wang Yu-chi, Taiwan’s minister of mainland affairs, hailed the meeting as the start of a new chapter in relations between two sides that have never formally recognized each other’s governments since a civil war ended in 1949. Both sides met with equal standing and showed mutual respect, he said.

“We absolutely can’t let the relations between the two sides be turbulent again, and even more, we can’t backtrack," Wang’s mainland counterpart Zhang Zhijun said.

It was the first official contact between the governments since a Chinese civil war forced Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists to flee to Taiwan in 1949.

While China considers Taiwan part of its territory to be reclaimed by force if necessary, relations have thawed in recent years as economic ties deepened.

China became Taiwan’s largest trade partner more than a decade ago and direct flights between the territories began in 2008.

“This will be good for regional stability," George Tsai, a political scientist at Taipei-based Chinese Culture University, said by phone on Tuesday. “Even if Taiwan elects a new government in 2016, there shouldn’t be any back-pedalling on the relationship after ministerial-level dialogue is established."

Fired missiles

In 1996, the mainland fired missiles into the stretch of water between them before Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election. China currently keeps 1,200 conventional missiles aimed at Taiwan, according to a US defence department intelligence agency report to be presented this week.

Before the closed-door talks began, Zhang, minister of China’s Taiwan Affairs office, shook the hand of Wang and called him by his formal title, which Wang had previously said he hoped to be addressed by.

Pressure from China has led to Taiwan athletes competing at the Olympic Games as Chinese Taipei and joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) as Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu (Chinese Taipei).

Meanwhile, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou referred to the People’s Republic of China as the mainland, including in his 1 January new year’s address. His government retains the name Republic of China.

Wang, who on Tuesday also referred to Zhang using his ministerial title, said the two sides didn’t discuss whether a meeting between Chinese head of state Xi Jinping and Ma would follow. Bloomberg

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