THE BLOG
02/17/2014 06:21 pm ET | Updated Apr 19, 2014

China Dream Over the Taiwan Strait

While the Lantern Festival has not yet ended the Chinese New Year celebrations, a historical meeting took place in Nanjing on February 11, 2014, between Wang Yu-chi, the head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), and Zhang Zhijun, the director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO).

It was the first time since the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 that the two sides held such high-level official dialogue, and they agreed to establish a permanent communication channel that will complement the semi-governmental bridge between the Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Mainland's Association of Relations Across the Straits (ARATS) established in the '90s.

Obviously, the talks between the two ministers could not clarify all the ambiguities surrounding the Taiwan Strait, but they signal that beyond increasingly strong business and financial synergies both sides want to see more political convergence.

The efforts toward political understanding are concomitant with a de facto growing economic interdependence. Thirty percent of the Taiwanese exports go to the mainland and another 15 percent to Hong Kong, following the election of Ma Ying-jeou as president of the Republic of China in 2008, there are now more than 600 flights a week between the mainland and the island while almost 2 million mainlanders visited "Chinese Taipei" last year.

However, the new political momentum between Beijing and Taipei have to be interpreted in the context of a decade that began on March 14, 2013, when Xi Jinping became the president of the People's Republic of China.

While Xi Jinping met a senior Taiwanese envoy, Vincent Siew, former vice president of the Republic of China from 2008 to 2012, at the APEC Summit in October 2013, he explicitly signaled to the island and to the world that his decade might also mark the end of the Chinese political divide.

Interestingly, before leaving Taipei Wang Yu-chi, the head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, suggested that the most suitable occasion for a meeting between Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping could be the APEC leaders' Summit in which the participants are referred as "member economies." The 2014 APEC Summit will take place in Beijing, much ahead of the 2016 presidential elections in Taiwan.

If Deng Xiaoping's political genius was at the source of Hong Kong's "One Country, Two Systems," Xi Jinping is ideally positioned to design a framework which would take into account the specificities of the Taiwan issue. After 17 years spent in Fujian, culturally a mirror of Taiwan, of which three years in Xiamen where he neighbored with the Jinmen archipelago administered by the Republic of China, Xi has gained truly unique insights on the Taiwanese economic and political dynamics.

In Fujian he certainly had many occasions to reflect about the historical China Dream of unity and to meditate on the opening of Luo Guanzhong's immortal novel The Three Kingdoms: "The world under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide."

In his 2014 New Year message, Xi Jinping declared that the "Chinese people seek to realize the Chinese Dream, the great renaissance of the Chinese nation," in a time of "comprehensive deepening of reforms" such a dream would not be complete without a peaceful reunification. One hundred three years after Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) was elected the first president of the Republic of China in the "Southern Capital," 77 years after the Nanjing Massacre, the Wang-Zhang Summit organized in a highly symbolic location was a necessary step on the long road toward the Chinese renaissance and world peace.

David Gosset is director of the Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), Shanghai, Beijing & Accra, and founder of the Euro-China Forum.

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