It is the first summit since China's civil war ended in 1949SINGAPORE, Nov 7 : Leaders of political rivals Taiwan and China have met for the first time in more than 60 years for talks that come amid rising anti-Beijing sentiment on the self-ruled island and just weeks ahead of elections.
China's President Xi Jinping and his Taiwanese counterpart, Ma Ying-jeou, shook hands at the start of the summit in Singapore on Saturday.
Before the leaders entered a closed meeting, Xi said the two sides are "one family" and cannot be pulled apart.
Ma responded by telling Xi the two sides should observe mutual respect after decades of hostility and rivalry and "respect each other's values and way of life".
"Even though this is the first meeting, we feel like old friends. Behind us is history stretching for 60 years," he said.
"Now, before our eyes, there are fruits of conciliation instead of confrontation."
It was the first such summit since China's civil war ended in 1949.
The talks come ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in Taiwan, in which the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is favoured to win, something Beijing wants to avoid.
The ruling Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT), retreated to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the communists, who are still in charge in Beijing. China has never renounced the use of force to bring what it considers a breakaway province under its control.
But while bilateral trade, investment and tourism have blossomed - particularly since Ma and his KMT took power in 2008 - there is deep suspicion on both sides, and no progress has been made on any sort of political settlement.
Despite the apparent warmth, the hour-long meeting's lasting significance remains to be seen.
No agreements were announced between two sides that still refuse to formally recognise each other's legitimacy.
But the encounter is undeniably historic: the previous occasion was in 1945, when Communist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong met with China's nationalist President Chiang Kai-shek in a failed reconciliation attempt.
The eventual Communist takeover forced Chiang's armies and about two million followers to flee to Taiwan, then a backwater island province, leaving a national rupture that has preoccupied both sides ever since.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the two men would address each other as "mister", presumably to avoid calling each other "president", as neither officially recognises the other as head of state.
In the heart of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, about 1,000 protesters marched on Saturday to denounce the meeting. But their anger was not necessarily representative of the public view of the summit.
"It's a good idea, and it's well timed," one woman told Al Jazeera. "I have faith in the president. I believe this could open a new chapter for Taiwan." Taiwan lost its UN seat to China in 1971, and only 22 states formally recognise the island. ?AFP,AL JAZEERA