Xi, Ma shake hands in show of solidarity across Taiwan Strait

2015-11-08 23:22:46 GMT2015-11-09 07:22:46(Beijing Time)  Agencies
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou before their historic meeting at the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore on Saturday. — AFPChinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou before their historic meeting at the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore on Saturday. — AFP

CHINA’S mainland and Taiwan must not let proponents of the island’s independence split them, China’s President Xi Jinping told Taiwan’s chief Ma Ying-jeou at the first meeting between leaders across the Taiwan Strait since China’s civil war ended in 1949.

Xi told Ma that “no matter how long divisions last, there is no power that can separate us.”

The talks at a luxury hotel in the neutral venue of Singapore lasted less than an hour. Xi and Ma smiled broadly and clasped hands for well over a minute.

“Today will be remembered in history,” Xi said in his remarks before the meeting.

Ma said the handshake brought together “both the past and the future of the two sides across the Strait, as well as the hopes of the rise of the Chinese nation.”

Moving into a meeting room, Xi, speaking first, said Chinese people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait had the ability and wisdom to solve their own problems.

“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 a family in which blood is thicker than water,” he said.

Xi called for deeper exchanges and dialogue, boosting the well-being of people on both sides, and bringing about the great revival of the Chinese nation. “Both sides belong to one country. That fact and legal basis has never changed, and will never change,” he said.

In response, Ma said he was determined to promote peace across the Taiwan Strait and that relations should be based on sincerity, wisdom and patience.

“Both sides should respect each other’s values and way of life to ensure mutual benefit and a win-win situation,” he said.

It is the first time that leaders from across the Taiwan Strait have shaken hands and faced each other across a table in 66 years. Relations between the mainland and Taiwan stalled when the forces of the Kuomintang led by Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of the civil war.

Xi and Ma addressed each other only as “mister” throughout the meeting. This form of address recalls how Communist Party leader Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek addressed each other in letters and telegrams decades ago.

Mao and Chiang met in the southwestern city of Chongqing in 1945, but failed to prevent the ensuing civil war. The decades that followed were characterized by animosity and hostility.

Xi admitted that there had been times when the Taiwan Strait was overshadowed by military confrontation and division, but the brotherhood between those on both sides eventually triumphed over isolation in the 1980s.

Such a close bond is “testimony to the 66-year history of cross-Strait relations, despite ordeals and long periods of isolation,” Xi said.

“At present, we are at a crossroads for choosing the direction and path for future development in cross-Strait relations,” he said.

“We are sitting together today to prevent the historical tragedy from repeating itself, prevent the fruits of peaceful development of cross-Strait ties from being lost again, enable compatriots across the Strait to continue to create a peaceful life, and enable our next generations to share a bright future,” he said.

Ma said that conflict and confrontation between the two no longer exist, calling on both sides to resolve their disputes through peaceful means.

Charles Kao, founder and chief executive of Taiwan-based Global Views Monthly, described Ma and Xi as “peacemakers and miracle-workers.”

Writing of his personal experiences, Kao said Taiwan was “where my heart belongs” and the mainland, “where my soul rests.”

“I am Chinese, Taiwanese and a Nanjinger (a resident of Nanjing, which was the country’s capital before 1949). My biggest wish is for peace across the Strait,” he said.

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