Historic meeting for Xi and Ma in S'pore

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (far left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping waving to the mass of journalists before their meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (far left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping waving to the mass of journalists before their meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Smiling broadly, the leaders of China and Taiwan, separated by a 160km strait and 66 years of confrontation and hostility, shook hands for a full minute and 21 seconds for the cameras - and history books.

The media scrutiny was intense as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou became the first leaders to meet following the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

After their handshake, Mr Xi in a red tie and Mr Ma in a blue one - the colours associated with the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang respectively - waved to the mass of journalists before retreating to a conference room at the Shangri-La Hotel for their summit meeting.

Mr Xi spoke first, saying: "No force can pull us apart because we are brothers who are still connected by our flesh even if our bones are broken, we are one family in which blood is thicker than water."

As if speaking to outside forces that might want to interfere in cross-strait matters, he said the two sides had the ability and the wisdom to solve their own problems.

Mr Ma said: "Even though this is the first meeting, we feel like old friends. Behind us is history stretching for 60 years. Now before our eyes, there are fruits of conciliation instead of confrontation."

The two sides have been separately ruled since 1949 and China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province. Ties have warmed since the Beijing-friendly Mr Ma came to power in 2008.

However, as both do not recognise each other's legitimacy, they avoided using "President", instead addressing each other as "Mister" and referring to each other as "leader" of Taiwan or the mainland.

Among the subjects discussed were the setting up of a hotline to deal with emergencies, Taiwan's international space, and peaceful development of cross-strait ties.

However, little of substance was agreed on beyond the hotline.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry yesterday said the Republic was "glad" to have facilitated the summit.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 08, 2015, with the headline 'Historic meeting for Xi and Ma in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe