President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and President Ma Ying-jeou of the Republic of China (Taiwan) met last Saturday at a historic meeting in Singapore.
Shaking hands and broadly smiling, the two leaders met at the famed Shangri-La Hotel. It was the first meeting between the leaders of mainland China and Taiwan in nearly seven decades. It represents efforts by both leaders to overcome a division brought by a civil war and decades of acrimony.
The status of Taiwan and its relations with China has been one of the most volatile issues in recent diplomatic relations. If hostilities across the Straits ever commenced, it would rapidly develop into an international conflagration entangling the United States and nearby Southeast Asian nations.
For these reasons, the summit is a major development that portends a path into a different political direction to promote peace and mutual prosperity. The maintenance of the status quo during past years has had major economic benefits for the parties including the California economy along with our Valley.
Before meeting privately, Xi underscored the meeting as a “historic day,” referring to Taiwan and mainland China as “brothers who are still connected by our flesh even if our bones are broken.” The meeting emphasized the necessity for peaceful and stable development of cross-Strait relations between both sides as well as the international community.
I hope, after the extended estrangement, the frank exchange of views in Singapore will be a precursor to future meetings of the two leaders. This will also serve to enhance mutual trust and confidence.
Taiwan has endeavored to participate in global events and international organizations only to meet with stiff resistance from the Beijing government. The nation’s ongoing humanitarian-assistance programs during world natural disasters have been well-chronicled.
In a news conference prior to the Singapore meeting, Ma stated his desire in reaching some agreement in permitting Taiwan to expand its participation in the international setting. The world’s most needy and challenged communities would especially welcome Taiwan’s human talent and financial resources.
The Xi-Ma meeting is of historic significance and positive for all parties. This includes the mainland, Taiwan and the world. It may provide a precedent for periodic contacts between the leaders of China and Taiwan.
The current robust economic relations between both parties have benefited California companies and their employees. Farm products from our fertile San Joaquin Valley are welcomed and savored by many of 1.3 billion people in mainland China as well as 23 million residents of Taiwan.
For 66 years, Taiwan has had de facto independence. During Ma’s two terms in office, he has worked diligently in establishing closer relations with Beijing. However, in opinion polls, the majority of Taiwan’s populace desires to retain the island’s separation from the mainland.
In contrast, Beijing leaders continue to regard Taiwan as a breakaway province with the ultimate goal of rejoining the mainland. However, Xi said both sides should “demonstrate to the world that Chinese people on both sides of the Strait fully have the ability and wisdom to solve their own problems.”
While final resolution of the Taiwan issue remains in the distance, the Singapore meeting is an unprecedented occasion. This may create the environment for future frequent political engagement, including periodic summits.
In the interim, strong economic relations continue along with opportunities for expanded trade. With a peaceful region, California and our Valley will continue to enjoy ever-expanding trade relations with China and Taiwan. Most important, our communities will reap the economic benefits of this new and constructive opening.
Harry G. Harris is president of HealthCare California and serves as a global management consultant. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.