China / HK Macao Taiwan

Let pragmatism lead the way

(China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-08 11:00

Let pragmatism lead the way
Li Min/China Daily

Over the past few days, the media have been lavish in their praise of the meet­ ing between top leaders of the Chi­nese mainland and Taiwan, using complimentary words such as "land­ mark" and "milestone" to describe it.

When Xi Jinping and Ma Ying­jeou met under inter­ national media spotlight in Singapore on Saturday, they opened a new page in cross­Taiwan Straits ties. A mountain of words can be used to dwell on the significance of the Xi­-Ma meeting. But it's more meaningful to explore what made such an event take place, in order to carry forward the momentum of the meeting to further boost bilateral ties.

Few people could have forecast the top­level meeting given the tense relations across the Straits in the first eight years of this century, when the "pro­independ­ ence" Democratic Progressive Party was the ruling par­ty on the island. The two sides once exchanged a battery of words and blamed each other for mutual mistrust.

However, the developments of the past more than six years show that only through pragmatism can the mainland and Taiwan have a permanent rapproche­ ment, gradually but certainly.

Without pragmatism the Wang-­Koo talks wouldn't have been held in Singapore in 1993, which laid the foundation for semi-­official contact across the Straits. As the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, then led by Wang Daohan, and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation, then headed by Koo Chen­fu, were authorized to handle cross­ Straits affairs in the absence of official ties between the mainland and Taiwan. The model helped the two sides shelve the sensitive issue of recognizing each other's political legitimacy.

Without pragmatism, resumption of the three cross­Straits links of direct trade, transport and post­ al services wouldn't have been possible in 2008 after being banned for almost 50 years. Even when Chen Shui­bian, leader of the then ruling DPP, advocated the pursuit of Taiwan "independence", the mainland did not abandon its push for establishing the three links. Re­establishing the links strengthened the eco­nomic and cultural bond between people across the Straits through closer exchanges.

Without pragmatism the year 2005 wouldn't have seen Lien Chan, then Kuomintang chairman, visiting the mainland, a first in 56 years. His meeting with Hu Jintao, then general secretary of the Communist Par­ ty of China Central Committee, paved the way for reg­ular top­ level contacts between the two parties and eased cross­Straits tensions that were created by the DPP's separatist push.

And without pragmatism, there wouldn't have been mutual recognition of official titles between Zhang Zhijun, head of Taiwan Affairs Office, and Wang Yu­chi, then chief of the Mainland Affairs Council on February 11, 2014, a first in 65 years. It quietly, but conclusively, removed the historical bur­ den of political non­recognition of each other.

Built on a series of pragmatic moves over the past two decades, the top leaders' meeting became reality after 66 years of waiting - a major breakthrough for both sides and a surprise for many. This wouldn't have happened if the mainland had refused to give Ma an equal footing and if Ma took the meeting as a form of degradation. In this sense, even the Xi­Ma handshake and dinner are of historic significance, reflecting their commitment to pursuing cross­Straits peace.

Pragmatism has played its part. Now, both sides will and should continue to rely on it to build a future when both sides are ready to sign a peace agreement to end their decades­old state of rivalry, no matter which party is in power on the island.


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