By Elliot deBruyn
Taiwanese and Chinese officials shook hands Tuesday in what many consider an encouraging step for cross-strait relations, though specific discussions on policies have yet to be released.
Before leaving Taiwan for Beijing, former Taiwanese premier and honorary Kuomintang (KMT) chairman Lien Chan said the reason for the trip was ‘simple – to boost bilateral exchanges by reviewing past developments and projecting future growth trends.’ Very simple.
In a 64 year conflict littered with trade embargoes, American aircraft carriers and missile launches, Lien may be underestimating the task at hand.
Media reports point to a friendly, albeit superficial meeting between Lien and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. During his trip Lien visited ancestral grave sites and met with “old friends and good pals of [his]” (presumably not at the same time).
While Lien was reuniting with his “nostalgic” past in Beijing, however, two pro-independence groups reminded the island nation of a more sobering time.
The Taiwan National Alliance (TNA) and the Taiwan 228 Care Association announced their plans to hold a procession on Thursday in memory of the 1947 massacre of between 10,000 and 30,000 Taiwanese anti-government demonstrators by the KMT-led government of the time, also known as the “228 Massacre“.
“It is my opinion that we must acknowledge both the future and the past,” TNA supporter and former chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party Yao Chia-wen said at a press conference announcing the plans. He continued that Taiwan would never want to be governed by a foreign power, according to the Taipei Times.
The 228 Massacre was perpetrated by Lien’s own party, the Kuomintang, who officially support Chinese reunification (while also opposing Communism).
Taiwan also has been largely edged out of the international squabble over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. In recent months, interested third parties (read “America”) have been biting their nails over the dispute’s potential for violent conflict. In 2012, Taiwan refused to work with mainland China in solving the dispute, further restricting themselves from cross-strait cooperation channels.
Lien also seems to have his reservations about the progress being made, with Reuters quoting him as saying cross-strait relations have transitioned from “one critical stage to another”.
Xi also said that Taiwan must “oppose Taiwan independence” and “follow the 1992 Consensus” for any real cooperation efforts to move forward, according to Xinhua. Though a report (pdf) by China’s Mainland Affairs Council has 71 percent of Taiwanese public supporting continued talks, it’s safe to assume annexation is not nearly as popular.
In short, it doesn’t seem that Xi or Lien are willing to commit to any dramatic policy changes before Xi (finally) takes up the presidential mantle next month.