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The Two Chinas Meet for the First Time Since 1949

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Peter Z. Scheer
Managing Editor
Peter Scheer grew up in the newspaper business, spending family vacations with his mother at newspaper editors' conferences, enjoying daycare in editorial departments and begrudgingly reviewing his father's…
Peter Z. Scheer

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The China that has its capital in Beijing has been at odds with the China that has its capital in Taipei since Mao Zedong and his Communist army chased the nationalist Kuomintang across the Taiwan Strait in 1949.

It’s the People’s Republic of China vs. the Republic of China, and they both claim to represent … China.

For decades, the missiles have been pointed, military exercises have been undertaken, and the two governments competed internationally for recognition. It’s an odd situation, especially considering how active Taiwan has been in China’s economic success. The two countries (China considers Taiwan a province in rebellion) do billions in trade and tourism and there’s room for growth.

As The Washington Post reports, China and Taiwan held their first official contact Tuesday. It’s a diplomatic coup that could replace perennial brinkmanship with stability. That’s the good news. The bad news is that China still wants to bring Taiwan back into the fold — sooner than later — and the vast majority of Taiwan’s citizens don’t want to trade passports.

The United States has promised to pivot to Asia, to project military power into a region that has long tired of imperialism. But the U.S. is also bound by law to guarantee Taiwan’s independence. Thank the Cold War for that.

It seems ludicrous to imagine America threatening force against its biggest creditor, China, but it happens all the time. Probably best to put the pin back in that grenade, especially now.

When Portuguese sailors stumbled upon Taiwan in the 1500s, they named it Ilha Formosa, or Beautiful Island. It is beautiful, and so is this rarest of events, when two factions, enemies for the better part of a century, finally get to talking. Happy new year.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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