In Promising Move, China And Taiwan's Leaders Will Meet For The First Time In 66 Years

A historic milestone.

China's President Xi Jinping and Taiwan's leader Ma Ying-jeou will meet in person this Saturday, marking the first time since before the Communist Revolution of 1949 that the leaders of the two countries have convened. The leaders will meet in Singapore, a country with whom both nations have good relations.

Zhang Zhijun, Taiwan's director of the Affairs Office of the State Council, called the meeting "a pragmatic arrangement, given the situation of the irresolution of cross-strait political differences."

The two leaders will have dinner and address each other as "Mister," a compromise given their disagreement over the validity of their titles as state leaders. They do not plan on signing any formal agreements, though the talks will focus on diffusing tension across the strait.

China and Taiwan, officially the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, separated in 1949 during the Communist Revolution when the Chinese Nationalists retreated to the island. China has never recognized Taiwan's sovereignty and still considers it a rogue province.

Xi's decision to meet with Ma reflects his bold approach to foreign policy compared to his predecessors. For example, he has met with Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite China's support of the ruling military party.

Although relations have long been tense, China remains Taiwan's biggest trade partner, with some Taiwanese companies maintaining factories on the other side of the strait. Still, the fortification of ties between the two countries is divisive, with opponents gathering outside Taiwan's parliament Wednesday to protest the meeting.

While many experts on China-Taiwan relations advise the meeting is largely symbolic, it is a huge move in the direction of diffusion of the longstanding tensions between the countries.

Cover photo by Goh Chai Hin - Pool / Getty Images