Changing China

Giant on the move

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China, Taiwan hold talks — hello?


Police should have brought sandwiches and sodas to the park outside a Taipei hotel where Taiwan negotiators and counterparts from old foe China held talks. Hardly anyone demonstrated against the mid-April meeting.

What’s more, over the weekend, as the two sides met more formally in China to sign agreements on trade and finance, Taiwan TV viewers watched news about swine flu in Mexico and the United States or celebrity scandal reruns. Monday morning newspapers’ editorials barely raised the usual spectre of Taiwan sacrificing its democratic self-rule to Communist China in exchange for lucrative trade deals.

What a change. Last year as the administration of China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou began meeting with Beijing after a decade of frozen relations marked by occasional war threats, Taiwan’s China-hostile opposition thundered against what they saw as a sell-out to Beijing and led massive demonstrations during the second round of talks, in Taipei.

Does anyone care anymore? The short answer is “yes”, but many people have accepted the idea that China, which has threatened to use force to end Taiwan’s self-rule, can talk with Taiwan on non-political issues such as trade without rattling the political status quo.