Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou was given a pen and ink drawing of a horse (his surname means "horse" in Chinese). Chen Yunlin, head of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, got a white flower pattern china vase in return. It is considered a historic event because it was the first visit by the head of China's "unofficial" agency for relations with Taiwan.
Recently, Taiwanese authorities gave rare deer to China in response to China's two pandas for Taiwan, as the current island nation's government pursues the "parity and dignity" approach with China.
Chen Yunlin's visit to Taipei, however, was dedicated to practicalities. The sides discussed and signed agreements involving flight, sea and postal communication, and on food safety.
The Chinese have the astounding ability to combine scrupulous adherence to ritual with ultimate pragmatism. They calculated that the flight from Taoyuan to Shanghai took four hours, and two more hours for Hong Kong, as there was no direct flight connection between China and Taiwan for political reasons.
After recent talks between Chinese and Taiwanese state agencies (held in China), weekend charter flights were introduced, reducing the flight time to 2 hours 24 minutes. Furthermore, new 1 hour 22 minute routes will be established, ensuring a 45% fuel saving.
Also, the duration of airfreight flights will be decreased from the current 14-16 hours to 1 hour 20 minutes; the time of shipping goods by sea will be reduced to 16 hours, cutting costs by 30%, and so on.
Food safety agreements include the inspection of food imports. One of the Taiwanese documents mentions the problem of "protection of rights and interests of innocent victims." The agreements signed in Taipei also give Taiwanese food and flowers a more direct route to Russia, which is very promising for the island's economy.
During the negotiations, the parties carefully avoided discussing any political issues. There were no arguments about which of the two regimes fits China best. They focused strictly on business. That's the difference between the ruling Kuomintang party and the previous Democratic president, Chen Shui-bian, who had been in office for eight years. While the Democrats insisted on quarreling with China, the current government normalized relations within a month.
The relationship between mainland China and the breakaway island is now likely to resemble the relationship between China's regions, or between China and ASEAN countries south of China's border. An integrated economic system featuring fewer barriers and restrictions is planned for the region. The new trade process will be similar to that of the U.S.-China trade agreements. The volume of the latter has been over $300 billion a year for some time, and is unlikely to drop even amid the current financial crisis.
Business ties between China and Taiwan follow the same pattern, with the cross-strait trade growing during the former president's reign, despite his policy and Taiwan's vague status, from $45.7 billion to $130 billion and Taiwanese investments in mainland China from $17 billion to $64.9 billion (and possibly to $150 billion). Over 40% of all Taiwanese exports go to China. In 2007, there were over 5 million personal trips across the strait.
Under these circumstances, establishment of political relations between China and Taiwan looks as normal as Andorra and Monaco joining the European Union.
Economic globalization sometimes turns politics, governments and state borders into something resembling the Catholic Church, a facilitator of ceremonies, the meaning of which is gradually lost under a cover of mysticism. Changing a prayer text would arouse a scandal, and possibly unrest. It's in human nature to accept changes while holding on to tradition.
Asian people seem to have no problem separating economy from politics. Although Russia and Japan haven't signed a formal peace treaty since World War II, the two countries maintain good relations. The civil war between the Communists and Kuomintang, which broke out in China in 1927 and ended in 1949, also has had no formal end. In that war Chiang Kai-shek's soldiers tried to exhume the grave of Mao Zedong's father in the village of Shaoshan and failed as they were mislead by local peasants showing the wrong site. This caused the Communists to respond by eliminating the Kuomintang spies. That war killed millions of people.
The flag of the Republic of China, carried by followers of Chiang Kai-shek in his campaigns back then, waves over Taiwan. The red banner, once hoisted by Mao Zedong over Beijing's Tiananmen Square, is streaming over China. This will long remain the same.
Meanwhile, goods, scrolls with horses painted on them and animals have no problem crossing the Taiwan Strait.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.