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China, Taiwan Hold First Direct Talks Since 1949

Representatives from China and Taiwan held face-to-face meetings in Nanjing on Tuesday.

This was a historic development; the two sides haven't held direct talks since the country split after a civil war in 1949.

Reuters reports that Taiwan was represented by Mainland Affairs Minister Wang Yu-chi and China sent Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun.

The Washington Post reports:

"Beijing refuses to formally acknowledge the government in Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province, and previous negotiations on cross-strait relations have been conducted by quasi-official representatives rather than government officials.

"Taiwan's minister of mainland affairs, Wang Yu-chi, called the meeting a 'new chapter' in relations between the two sides, and 'truly a day for the record books,' according to wire service reports.

"China's representative, Zhang Zhijun, said the two negotiators could 'definitely become good friends,' but would need to show imagination to achieve breakthroughs in the future, China's official Xinhua news agency reported. 'We absolutely can't let the relations between the two sides be turbulent again, and even more, we can't backtrack,' Zhang said."

The New York Times has a brief history of relations between the two sides:

"In 1995 and 1996, [China] fired missiles into waters around Taiwan ahead of [Taiwan's] first democratic presidential election, and it regularly denounced Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's independent-leaning president from 2000 to 2008.

"Following the 2008 election of President Ma Ying-jeou, who favors closer ties with the mainland, Beijing has taken a more conciliatory approach. Cross-strait trade has nearly doubled over the course of Mr. Ma's presidency, reaching $197 billion last year. Nearly three million Chinese traveled to Taiwan last year, constituting the largest single group of visitors following Taiwan's easing of restrictions on mainland arrivals starting in 2008.

"The two sides signed a landmark trade agreement, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, in 2010. Those negotiations were carried out by semiofficial bodies: Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation and China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits."

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