Sunday, April 13, 2008

Taiwan and China Break the Ice

Sources: CNN, BBC

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Taiwanese Vice President-Elect Vincent Siew are prepared to meet on Saturday. This would be the highest level meeting ever between the two estranged states. This is an improvement in the icy relations between China and Taiwan that has dominated over the past eight years. Vice President Siew is a member of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT), and over the past eight years, the ruling DPP has antagonized China. Siew and his boss, President-elect Ma Ying-Jeou, have promised more close cooperation with China.

China, which claims sovereignty over all of Taiwan, refuses to recognize the newly elected Taiwan government. Instead, China refers to Vice President Siew as the "chairman" of the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation. In official comments released by the Chinese government to Xinhua, the state run newspaper, President Hu called this meeting one of "historic opportunity" and for a potential of the improvement in cross-strait relations.

The meeting is expected to last twenty minutes. President Hu and Vice President Siew will meet in private during an annual economic summit in Hainan Province. This meeting is part of the KMT campaign promises to improve relations with China--in the hopes of bringing direct contacts between the two states. The KMT hopes to have direct flights, direct economic investment, and a peace treaty between the two states during this term.

Taiwan has been estranged from China since 1949, when the Communist Party of China established the People's Republic of China in Beijing. The formerly ruling KMT relocated to Taiwan. Since then, the two nations have taken distinctive routes of development. Taiwan has experienced virtual independence from China since that point. Along that line, these meetings have been criticized strongly by the pro-Independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). DPP legislator, Trong Chai commented that while Taiwan "must understand the position and ideas of the other side...The other side should respect the fact that Taiwan is an independent, sovereign country. Mr Siew didn't receive that kind of treatment." Other DPP critics have claimed that while good relations would promote good short-term economic relations, this would be the first step to the loss of Taiwanese sovereignty.

Question: The KMT hopes improved relations will lead to a peace treaty. Under what circumstances, if any, will the two states reunite?

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