Nanjing (China) (AFP) – China and Taiwan on Tuesday held their first government-to-government talks since they split 65 years ago after a brutal civil war — a symbolic yet historic move between the former bitter rivals.
Taipei’s Wang Yu-chi, who oversees the island’s China policy, met his Beijing counterpart Zhang Zhijun in Nanjing on the first day of a four-day trip.
With sensitivities crucial, the room was neutrally decorated with no flags visible and nameplates on the table devoid of titles or affiliations.
The meeting was the fruit of years of slow efforts to improve political ties on the back of a burgeoning economic relationship.
“Both sides should make up our minds to never let cross-strait relations again become tormented and never go backward,” Zhang said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“I believe that as long as we walk on the right road of peaceful development we should and certainly can get closer in the future.”
Separately, Taipei’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in a statement after the meeting that Wang officially invited Zhang to visit the island “to develop a deeper understanding of Taiwan society and the conditions of its people”.
Nanjing, in eastern China, was the country’s capital when it was ruled by Wang’s Kuomintang, or Nationalist, party in the first half of the 20th century.
When they lost China’s civil war — which cost millions of lives — to Mao Zedong’s Communists in 1949, two million supporters of the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China.
The island and the mainland have been governed separately ever since, both claiming to be the true government of China and only re-establishing contact in the 1990s through quasi-official organisations.
But Beijing’s Communist authorities still aim to reunite all of China under their rule, and view Taiwan as a rebel region awaiting reunification with the mainland — by force if necessary.
Over the decades Taipei has become increasingly isolated diplomatically, losing the Chinese seat at the UN in 1971 and seeing the number of countries recognizing it steadily whittled away. But it is supplied militarily by the United States and has enjoyed a long economic boom.
No official agenda was released for the talks — widely seen as a symbolic, confidence-building exercise — and Wang said earlier he would not sign any agreements.
Taiwan was looking to promote communication on culture, education, sciences and other subjects, according to the Taiwanese statement, while analysts say China has one eye on long-term integration of the island.