China, Taiwan to hold historic first formal meeting since 1949

The Great Hall of the People, where the Chinese Communist Party plenum is held, is seen behind red flags in Tiananmen square in Beijing on November 12, 2013. Next month, China and Taiwan will hold their first formal meeting since 1949. -- PHOTO: REUT
The Great Hall of the People, where the Chinese Communist Party plenum is held, is seen behind red flags in Tiananmen square in Beijing on November 12, 2013. Next month, China and Taiwan will hold their first formal meeting since 1949. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - In a move hailed as a historic milestone for cross-strait ties, China and Taiwan officials will be shedding their so-called "white gloves" when they shake hands next month.

Both sides are meeting formally on a government-to-government basis - the first such meeting since a civil war split China, and the Kuomintang (KMT) fled to Taiwan in 1949 where it set up its own government.

Contact resumed in the early 1990s but sheathed in the form of non-governmental organisations - thus, the term "white gloves" - to avoid any official recognition of each other.

Now, in a bid to improve ties, this will change.

China's Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun who heads the Taiwan Affairs Office, and Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council chief Wang Yu-chi are meeting on Feb 16 in Nanjing, reported Taiwan newspaper United Daily News.

President Ma Ying-Jeou, speaking on an official visit to Honduras, said the meeting next month is an "inevitable" step in cross-strait relations, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

Analysts say both sides will bring to the meeting their own agenda. Beijing is keen to kick-start political dialogue that could pave the way to reunification, while Taiwan wants to achieve certain objectives such as participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade pact now being negotiated between Asean and its trading partners.

xueying@sph.com.sg

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