On November 7, Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou held the first meeting between the leaders of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan since 1949, with substantive discussions followed by a private dinner in Singapore.
Though the process to bring about the historic meeting may have been full of challenges, its success had been guaranteed given the increasingly close mainland-Taiwan links in the past 36 years.
Back on January 1, 1979, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress issued the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan. In the statement, the mainland first proposed to end the military confrontation across the Taiwan Straits through dialogues. In the following decades, exchanges between the two sides have steadily progressed despite the difficulties caused by pro-independence forces in the island.
As Xi pointed out during his meeting with Lien Chan, Honorary Chairman of Kuomintang party, on February 25, 2013, "Nothing can cut the blood bond between the mainland and Taiwan compatriots who all belong to the Chinese nation, and nothing can change the fact that both sides on the Taiwan Straits belong to one China." He stressed that mutually beneficial cross-Straits exchanges are unstoppable.
Especially after Ma came to power in Taiwan in 2008, the relationship between the mainland and Taiwan has entered a new stage of peaceful development under the 1992 Consensus that there is only one China.
On the other hand, new challenges have arisen in recent years. For example, how to further consolidate and advance the peaceful development of the cross-Straits relationship, as well as how to deliver more of its benefits to ordinary mainland and Taiwanese residents, the latter in particular. Against the backdrop of the global economic recession and their respective ongoing economic restructuring processes, both sides need to deepen their economic, trade and industrial cooperation in order to realize common development goals and create benefits for their own people.
The peaceful evolution of the cross-Straits relationship since 2008 has helped to develop mutual political trust between the mainland and Taiwan as well as their experience in communicating with each other. These have laid the foundation for the Xi-Ma meeting. In addition, the need for consultation on an equal footing between the leaders of both sides has become paramount in addressing the challenges ahead and resolving issues of common concern.
The Xi-Ma meeting is a milestone in mainland-Taiwan exchanges that has a far-reaching impact. First, it is recognition of the efforts made by Ma and the Kuomintang in the past eight years to promote the peaceful development of the cross-Straits relationship on the basis of the 1992 Consensus. On the other hand, it demonstrates the sincerity and determination of leaders of both sides to maintain cross-Straits peace and stability. As long as the two sides adhere to the 1992 Consensus, they can find proper ways to resolve their political differences through consultation.
The meeting may also enhance the Taiwanese people's awareness of the benefits of a peaceful cross-Straits relationship. This influences their willingness to join hands with mainlanders in order to seek common development goals. In addition, it discourages the small number of confrontational politicians who insist on "Taiwan independence."
Moreover, the meeting has lifted cross-Straits communication and interaction to a new level and paved the way for future talks between the leaders of both sides on major issues or at important occasions. As long as the political foundation and atmosphere are right, they will make progress on some unavoidable issues such as ending hostility, building a mechanism of mutual military trust, jointly safeguarding sovereignty over territorial waters and land, and eventually realizing peaceful reunification.
Finally, the meeting contributes to the peace and stability of the region. The Taiwan question is perceived to be a card for some countries to play against China. If Taiwan and the mainland remain hostile or fail to effectively manage their crises, it is possible that the resulting instability would be beneficial to other countries. The Xi-Ma meeting sent a clear message that the Chinese people across the Taiwan Straits have the capability and wisdom to solve their own problems, hence preventing any interference from any foreign forces and contributing to the regional peace and development.
As Xi once said, it is important that people from the mainland and Taiwan realize and make use of the historic opportunities available to them in order to push forward the peaceful development of the cross-Straits relationship. The meeting demonstrates that Chinese people across the Taiwan Straits love and pursue peace, and that the leaders of both sides are responsible for the nation's future.
The author is executive vice president of the Taiwan Institute, Tsinghua University
Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan
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