Comment: S. M. Hali
2015 November 7 will go down in the history of China as a red letter day for this day, Chinese President Xi Jinping took the bold step of meeting Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou at Singapore for an hour’s frank tête-à-tête and dinner. Readers may recall that China had gained independence in 1945 but the Kuomintang (KMT), who had fought side by side with the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) to throw away the yoke of Japanese tyranny, usurped power after Japan’s defeat. A bloody civil war followed and in 1949 the KMT, led by Chiang Kai-shek, after being defeated by the CPC, fled to Taiwan and illegally established the Republic of China. Ironically, the west, which was supporting Chiang Kai-shek, recognized Taiwan as China, ignoring the 1.3 billion Chinese residents of mainland China. Chairman CPC President Mao Zedong, displaying traditional Chinese patience, bided his time in building his nation, till in 1972, the US President Richard Nixon reached out to him and restored China’s position, including its place as permanent member of the UN Security Council. Relations between China and Taiwan remained strained as China believes that Taiwan is part of China but Taiwan, propped up by the west, was adamant of maintaining its independence. In 1683, following the defeat of Koxinga’s grandson by an armada led by Admiral Shi Lang of southern Fujian, the Qing Dynasty formally annexed Taiwan, placing it under the jurisdiction of Fujian province. Thus China has maintained its claim on Taiwan.
Time-honored Chinese prudence dictated that China builds itself economically and a day will come when Taiwan itself will express the desire of rejoining mainland China.
Perhaps that day is not far because for the first time in 66 years, leaders across the Taiwan Strait have shaken hands and faced each other across a table, displaying bonhomie and camaraderie.
President Xi Jinping declared that “Today will be remembered in history,” and called for deeper exchange and dialogue, boosting the well-being of people on both sides, and bringing about the great revival of the Chinese nation together. “Both sides belong to one country… That fact and legal basis has never changed, and will never change,” Xi said.
Ma said the handshake brought together “both the past and the future of the two sides across the Strait, as well as the hopes of the rise of the Chinese nation.”
This however, is the first step in the reunification, which may take a while, since the Taiwanese will take time to digest the factor of conjugation but the feedback from the intelligentsia is that the historic meeting was declared a welcome step.
In a four-point proposal made during the meeting, Xi described the 1992 Consensus that gave birth to the one-China principle, and opposition to Taiwan independence as the common political ground of both sides. Since 2008, a lot of progress has been made. The mainland and Taiwan have signed 23 agreements. Over 40,000 students have taken advantage of academic exchange programs, and now more than 8 million tourists travel between the two sides each year. Annual trade is now worth over 170 billion U.S. dollars.
With the breaking of the ice by the historic meeting, the residents of Taiwan have an opportunity to carefully review the development of cross-Strait relations and under what conditions they have been achieved. China has already reached out to all its neighbours to settle their bilateral disputes amicably. Taiwan, which is considered as an estranged element of People’s Republic of China (PRC), could have been conquered militarily and subjugated into reunification. PRC however, which has no hegemonistic designs, adopted the path of peaceful development and followed a flexible and pragmatic approach, which has been welcomed.
Credit must also be given to Ma Ying-jeou, the current President of Taiwan, who stuck his limb out in endeavoring to bridge the divide along with President Xi. Ma declared that the conflict and confrontation between the two no longer exist, calling on both sides to resolve their disputes through peaceful means.
Xi reiterated to Ma that “No force can pull us apart, because we are brothers connected by our flesh, even if our bones are broken. We are one family whose blood is thicker than water”.
With a historical start, hopefully more face to meetings will take place in pursuit of the one-China principle, and the Xi-Ma meeting will pave the way for the aspiration of the people to bridge the deep historical gorge to be fulfilled.
Sep 28, 2016 0
Special coverage on China's Two Party Sessions by The Daily Mail - People's Daily