Russian diplomacy supports a peaceful resolution of the “Taiwan Problem,” a process of open dialogue that respects both the territorial integrity of China and the interests of Taiwan’s citizens.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, left, leave a room where they met and shook hands in front of members of the media at the Shangri-la Hotel on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. The two leaders shook hands at the start of a historic meeting, marking the first top level contact between the formerly bitter Cold War foes since they split amid civil war 66 years ago. Photo: AP
The meeting between the leaders of China and Taiwan, which took place on Nov. 7 in Singapore, undoubtedly became one of the most important international events of 2015.
It is interesting that the very fact of the scheduled meeting between the President of China, Xi Jinping, and the President of Taiwan (formally calling itself the Republic of China), Ma Ying-jeou, had been kept secret until the very last moment. Moreover, it took place in one of Singapore’s luxury hotels, under very tight security conditions.
Perhaps some journalists, expecting that during this visit the two leaders would be defending a common Chinese heritage, were disappointed: no formal conceptual agreements or contracts were reached or concluded during this rendezvous in Singapore. Nevertheless, the talks between the leaders of China and Taiwan can definitely be considered as a significant event. With no exaggeration, this event can even be called an “historic meeting.”
This is not only because the leaders of the ruling Communist Party in China and Taiwan Kuomintang Nationalist Party met for the first time and shook hands. This was the first such meeting, not only since the partition of China (1949), but also since 1945!
This meeting between Xi and Ma has unequivocally confirmed that the two sides, as they say in Beijing, are in favor of having “one China, but each has their own interpretation of what this entails.”
Chinese President Xi said after the meeting that, “The two sides of the strait form the same single family, which no power in the world can divide.”
His colleague from Taipei, acknowledged that, “History has left us with unresolved conflicts,” and urged his partner to respect the lifestyle values of each other. Going to this meeting, Ma Ying-jeou, on the one hand, achieved positive international PR, and on the other hand – confirmed loyalty to his party’s idea of a unified China.
This seems all the more important seeing that general elections will be held in Taiwan in January, and at the moment, the front-runner, according to the polls, is the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), many of whose supporters dream about a fully independent Taiwanese state.
However, according to well-known Asian affairs expert Jacob Berger, even if the DPP does come to power in Taiwan, its leadership “will not demand immediate independence, and will continue the line pursued by the Kuomintang Party – to achieve normal relations with China.”
The new spirit of détente in Asia-Pacific
For years, the geopolitical and geo-economic situation in the vast East Asian Region has remained unstable. Here we can mention the acute situation on the Korean peninsula, where both sides regularly rattle their sabers while threatening war against each other.
Obviously, not contributing to the pacification of the Asia-Pacific Region is the absence of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, the occasionally escalating territorial disputes between China and Japan, and the mass of disputed territorial waters in the area of the South China Sea.
Of course, all of these unresolved issues remain important to this day. Nevertheless, it is also important to note, that this Singapore meeting between the leaders of the “two Chinas” has taken place against the background of a refreshing new spirit of détente in East Asia.
And the reason behind this, most believe, is first of all the economy. This need for stable bilateral economic partnerships explains the active diplomatic work undertaken in the organization of the Russian president’s visit to Japan.
It was concern for the economy that led to the launching of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, initiated by Washington, while foreign economic causes contributed to the convening of a tripartite summit a month ago between China, South Korea, and Japan.
However, if we take a closer look, the relations between Mainland China and Taiwan are also dominated by economic aspects. The mutual trade turnover of the “two Chinas” is nearly $200 billion annually. Since 2010, customs tariffs have been gradually reduced or abolished. Recently, Taiwanese firms were given permission to carry out lending operations to Chinese organizations; and Taiwan banks can now open deposits in the Chinese currency, the renminbi (RMB).
How Moscow views “the two Chinas”
According to articles in the foreign press concerning the meeting in Singapore between “the two Chinas,” it can be seen that the rapprochement between Beijing and Taipei is objectively in the interests of the U.S. Administration, despite the fact that the foreign policy moves made by the current Taiwanese president are not always coordinated with Washington. The fact is that the U.S. does not need another tension point in the “Greater Far East.”
Then again, this meeting held in Singapore between Xi and Ma also benefits the geopolitical interests of Russia. As is well known, from the very beginning after China was divided in 1949, the Soviet Union, and later Russia consistently advocated the restoration of the territorial integrity of China.
Over many long years, Moscow fought to ensure that China had the right to speak for the interests of the Chinese nation. At the same time, we should recall the fact that – in many respects due to the critical position of Moscow in 1958, when Chairman Mao wanted to take Taiwan by force – relations between the U.S.S.R. and China quickly deteriorated.
Of course, the relations between Moscow and Beijing in no way follow the same format, or are on the same level, as the relations that were developed in the 1990s between Russia and Taiwan. In the first case, we are talking about a strategic partnership.
Economic trade between Russia and China, in spite of all the problems caused by the economic crisis, totals $95 billion. The volume of trade with Taiwan is several times lower, and of course, there are no official inter-state relations between Moscow and Taipei, although specific trade, scientific and cultural contacts are in development.
However, in any case, as in the past, Russian diplomacy supports only a peaceful resolution of the “Taiwan Problem” through open dialogue. Such an approach respects the territorial integrity of China, as well as the interests of the inhabitants of Taiwan. It remains to be seen if anything can change this objective reality of East Asian geopolitics.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.