Historic handshake

Updated: 2015-11-08 09:30

By Xing Zhigang in Singapore and Zhao Yinan in Beijing(China Daily)

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Xi calls for preventing repeat of historical tragedy in cross-Straits ties; Ma stresses firm stance on one-China principle

Historic handshake

Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou share a point at their meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore on Saturday. [Photo/Xinhua]

The hands of top leaders across the Taiwan Straits traveled more than six decades to reach a minutelong grip on Saturday, setting the stage for deeper integration based on the one-China principle.

Divided by the sea and decades of opposition, leaders of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan - Xi Jinping and Ma Yingjeou - met in Singapore, for the first time since 1949.

At 3 pm in Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel, Xi and Ma walked from two sides of a ballroom toward one another and shook hands.

Amid photo requests from hundreds of reporters, the leaders turned slightly toward the cameras to help them get the perfect angle.

Their handshake, which had seemed impossible for decades, kept up for more than aminute, marking a new era in ties of the two sides that had long been set apart.

One-China principle

In the hour-long, closed-door meeting that followed the handshake, the leaders reiterated their support for the 1992 Consensus, an agreement reached between representatives from both sides in 1992 that recognizes only oneChina.

"Today will be remembered in history," Xi said in the opening remarks at the meeting.

"We are faced with a choice in the direction and path of cross-Straits ties.

"We are sitting together today to prevent historical tragedy from repeating itself...and to enable our future generations to share a bright future," Xi said.

Xi expressed hope that the two sides will adhere to the 1992 Consensus, consolidate common political foundations, stick to the path of peaceful development, and maintain the right direction for the development of cross-Straits ties.

Ma, speaking at a press conference after the meeting, also stressed his firm stance on the one-China principle and, as the island's leader, against its "independence".

The "constitution" in Taiwan does not allow for the concept of two Chinas, nor the theory of one China, one Taiwan, he said.

Hotline set up

Better communication and family bonds were emphasized at the meeting, and the leaders tried to clear related concerns of the other side.

Direct, better communication will soon be possible,as the two sides agreed to a hotline between top officials on cross-Straits relations to reduce risks of misunderstanding.

The suggestion of such a hotline to facilitate the handling of urgent issues won an "immediate response" from Xi, Ma said at the press conference.

Currently, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have a direct hotline between deputy officials for cross-Straits relations. On the island's appeal for "more room in the international community", Xi said that it could be handled "case by case, in a proper manner".

As for a military base stationed in the north of the mainland and being viewed by some as a threat to the island, Ma told reporters that Xi has denied the speculation.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Xi said the past 66 years have seen the continuation of family bonds between the two sides.

"No matter how long we stand a part and how many difficulties we go through,we are still family and blood is always thicker than water.

"We ought to show the world that we can solve our own problems and together make a greater contribution to the world," he said.

Ma, speaking at the press conference, regarded Saturday's meeting as "the first step toward achieving normalized meetings for leaders from both sides".

"It's quite strange that both leaders don't meet when cross-Straits relations have developed to today's level," Ma said, noting that such candid talks should be the usual arrangement.

Irreversible progress

Yin Cunyi, a professor in Taiwan relations at Tsinghua University, said Saturday's meeting has marked an irreversible progress in cross-Straits ties.

"The step has been taken, and it cannot move backward again. Any side which attempts to reverse the trend of peace and cooperation will lose the support of the people," he said.

The arrangement of the meeting was flexible and pragmatic, reflecting "the intimacy of family, instead of a diplomatic event', Yin said.

Chiou Jin-yi, a former official of the Taipei-based Straits Exchange Foundation, said: "The two sides have made progress over the years, and it is time to sit down and talk about the future.

"Xi's ambition for the Chinese Dream ought to include the part about Taiwan, but materializing such a concept is an issue worth discussion."

Zhang Haizhou and Peng Yining in Singapore contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at zhaoyinan@ chinadaily.com.cn and xingzhigang@chinadaily. com.cn