The leaders of China’s Communist Party and Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party met in Beijing on Tuesday, amid cooling cross-Strait relations after the KMT’s electoral defeat in January.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and KMT Chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu both reaffirmed their support for the “1992 Consensus,” a controversial doctrine stating that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one China,” albeit with differing interpretations of “China.”
Current Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has refrained from embracing the “1992 Consensus,” preferring to speak of the “historical fact” that both sides agreed to “set aside differences” in a 1992 meeting.
Taiwan – officially the Republic of China – still maintains nominal claims of sovereignty over the mainland following the KMT’s defeat in the Chinese Civil War of the 1940s. The Beijing and Taipei governments do not officially recognise one other.
On Tuesday, Xi praised the KMT for working with the Communist Party to deliver “realistic benefits” and “a path of peaceful development” to the Taiwanese people. “Justice is in the hearts of the people,” said Xi at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
Hung told Xi that her party would combat pro-independence leanings in Taiwan with a “policy of peace.” She also spoke of the importance of party-level dialogue between the KMT and the CPP.
Since Tsai took office in May, Beijing has axed government-level dialogue with Taipei, and tourism activities from mainland China to Taiwan has reportedly decreased.
Hung was previously the KMT’s candidate for the January 2016 Taiwanese presidential election. Following low approval ratings – partly due to her advocacy of stronger ties and unification with the mainland – she was replaced with Eric Chu Li-lun in October 2015. Chu was defeated by the DPP’s Tsai in the presidential election, but Hung was then elected as KMT Chairperson in March 2016.
Hung and Xi greeted each other as party leaders, respectively referring to each other as “chairperson” and “general secretary.” They held a closed-door meeting for around half an hour in the afternoon.
The last high-level cross-Strait meeting took place in November 2015, when Xi met former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore. As governmental leaders, they greeted each other as “Mr. Xi” and “Mr. Ma.”