The presidents of China and Taiwan will meet for the first time ever this week, both sides confirmed Tuesday. The meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan is scheduled to take place in Singapore this Saturday, more than a half-century after civil war in China split the island from the mainland in 1949.
The relationship between the Taiwan and mainland China has warmed of late despite years of hostility. “[R]elations have ranged from China conducting missile tests in waters off the island in the 1990s to a thaw that’s seen the mainland now become Taiwan’s biggest trading partner,” Bloomberg notes. China, however, still considers the island a breakaway province that must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
“China’s leaders have been cautious about meeting Taiwan officials out of fear of legitimizing the island’s government, which they have long tried to isolate,” according to the New York Times. “China favors Mr. Ma’s Nationalist Party, also known as the Kuomintang, over Taiwan’s pro-independence opposition.” With an election scheduled for January in Taiwan, Ma’s tilt towards Beijing has been met with skepticism in Taiwan and renewed fears of Chinese meddling in Taiwanese politics has helped put his party behind in the polls, making an electoral route look likely. The announced meeting has already prompted opposition leaders to plan protests for Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports.