China, Taiwan Hold First Government Talks Since 1949

For the first time in 65 years, government leaders from Taiwan and China are meeting face-to-face.
Posted at 12:27 PM, Feb 11, 2014

For the first time in more than six decades, government leaders from Taiwan and China are meeting face-to-face. And while the talks aren’t expected to yield much in the way of progress, the fact that they’re even taking place is pretty remarkable.

The rival governments have had no official contact until now. Instead all dialogue has been carried out by proxies. (Via YouTube / ChinaWelcomeU

Their relationship is complicated — China’s Communist party considers Taiwan a rebel region that should be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. (Via Google Maps

The animosity dates back to China’s civil war in 1949. When the country’s nationalists lost to Mao Zedong’s communists 65 years ago, Chiang Kai-Shek and his two million nationalists supporters fled to Taiwan. (Via University of Southern California

From then on, the two were governed separately, with both claiming to be the true government of China — Taiwain referring to itself as the Republic of China. 

But in 1971, the United Nations recognized mainland China as the “rightful holders” of China's U.N. seat, and Taiwan grew more isolated internationally. (Via United Nations

But starting with the election of Taiwan's Beijing-friendly president Ma Ying-jeou in 2008, relations between Taiwan and China started to improve. (Via Wikimedia Commons / jamiweb)

He paved the way for increased tourism and direct flights between Taiwan and China. (Via NTD-TV

These talks aren't totally out of the blue — years of behind-the-scenes work went in to getting Chinese and Taiwanese leaders at the negotiating table. (Via Euronews

Each side wants different things. As one China analyst told Al Jazeera the purpose, from the Taiwanese perspective, is by “no means” reunification.

"There is no mileage for that in Taiwan. Most of the Taiwanese people want status quo."

As for China, analysts speculate, it will push for a free trade agreement it approved six months ago that remains stalled in Taiwan's parliament. 

 The BBC’s Martin Patience explains: “China perhaps sees these talks as a useful opportunity to forge closer ties with Taiwan while a relatively pro-Beijing president remains in power on the island.”

One issue the two are likely to disagree on — press freedom. China reportedly would not allow several journalists from Taiwanese and Western-backed news outlets to attend the meeting.