by Dereck Lammers
China and Taiwan just held their first highest level talks in more than 65 years, rooting back to 1949 when the Communist made Nationalists flee to Taiwan. Wang Yu-chi of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which oversees the island’s China policy, met with his mainland Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun, of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
Xinhua News Agency, a state press agency in China, quoted Zhang by saying that “We should both be resolute to not let cross-strait relations suffer any more twists and turns, and never let it (the relationship) go backward,”. Wang, in the other hand, was quoted saying “”Being able to sit down and talk today was quite unimaginable in the past,” which explains the magnitude of this meeting. Previous contacts have been done between parties and foundations but never between the government officials. There were no flags in the room and every official was addressed by their titles, which added a sense of diplomacy at the meeting. This event was held in Nanjing, China, and the symbolic meaning behind it is quite obvious: it was the capital of China back in 1949 when the KMT (Kuomintang) was the ruling party in the country before the civil war happened. The themes discussed were better diplomatic relations and to ease tensions, although it will take more meetings to get close to an agreement.
China and Taiwan have been, for a long time now, in a dispute over the claims of sovereignty, made by Taiwan, and those made by China, which asserts that Taiwan is part of China as a province. The Chinese refuse to see Taiwan as an independent country, and Taiwan refuses to see themselves as part of China which is the central dispute over the decades. Taiwan still calls itself the Republic of China (ROC). Beijing (Capital of China ) insists that Taiwan is part of China and has stated aim of reclaiming the island before. The US is committed on defending Taipei (Capital of Taiwan) despite not formally recognizing Taiwan as an independent country. The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 came alive not to protect Taiwan directly in case of war, per se, but to become a better ally by selling weapons of defensive character. This situation has created a decades-long military standoff between Beijing and Washington. Diplomatic relations have certainly improved in 2008, when the Kuomintang party in Taiwan won the presidential seat, with pro-Beijing president Ma Ying-jeou being elected. Despite the constant tension between them, there is a sense of optimism for peace and truce to become effective after this historical meeting. Can there be peace between China and Taiwan?
For starters, China and Taiwan are interlinked yet very different in terms of government, society and ideologies. They both have different currencies. China has the Yuan or RMB (¥), while Taiwan has the New Taiwan Dollar, or TWD. Their type of government is also different, with China ruling with a Communist approach while Taiwan has a democratic base. In terms of society, China seems to be always on the rush, while Taiwan has a laid-back approach to matters. If you have visited China and Taiwan, the differences are noticeable right after you get off your plane. The subject of freedom is an important factor, with the Chinese government censoring activities and news that do not positively portray their intentions, while Taiwan encourages free press and universal value, as mentioned by the Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. They also mentioned that “We’ve (Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council) repeatedly said that the most important thing regarding news exchange between the two sides is the free and equal flow of information.” Despite the many differences, there are also noticeable shared traits between the two.
The most important being that most of the Taiwanese people, close to 70%, are directly descendants from immigrants from China. In fact, if you ask people on the streets of Taiwan, they will tell you that their ancestors are from China but that they feel Taiwanese. According to my personal studies made in Taiwan, the only things that the Taiwanese people want is to be recognized as an independent country and have peaceful relations with China, the land of their ancestors. Although it is easier said than done, the diplomatic meeting that took place in Nanjing on February 11, 2014 is a great way to establish diplomacy and peaceful talks to preempt stability and prosperity between China and Taiwan.
Do you think that China and Taiwan can amend relations and finally have a symbiotic peaceful and stable relationship? Is an eminent pact in the vicinity to ease decades-long tension?
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.