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    Nov 09, 2015

    A dinner 66 years in the waiting


    AFTER waiting for 66 years, China and Taiwan saw their leaders sit down together in Singapore on Saturday evening for an 80-minute meal buoyed by the strongest liquors from both sides.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou were seated next to each other at a round table, which helped circumvent the need to decide who was the "host" if the table had been rectangular, reported the Chinese media and Reuters.

    The duo, together with 12 officials from both sides, shared a relatively simple dinner - the bill of which was equally split - in the State Room of the Shangri-La Hotel's Valley Wing after their historic meeting in the afternoon.

    The main dish was dandan mian, a spicy noodle that originates from south-west China's Sichuan province, accompanied by six Chinese side dishes, including crayfish, braised pork and fried asparagus, reported the Beijing Youth Daily.

    While flying back home on Saturday night, Mr Ma revealed to the Taiwanese media that both sides only had small talk at the table. They talked about agriculture and the fabulously sharp knives made in Kinmen island close to China's Fujian province, which were made from remains from artillery shells fired from the mainland.

    "We didn't drink much," Mr Ma said. "He (Mr Xi) said he could not hold his drink and I said me too."

    Mr Xi brought to the meal the famous fiery Maotai spirit from south-west Guizhou province, while Mr Ma brought vintage Kaoliang or sorghum wine from Kinmen, as well as the Matsu "old" wine from the Matsu islands, also close to Fujian.

    "When we got to discussing Kaoliang, he (Mr Xi) said actually the production of Chinese sorghum in Kinmen is not enough so they have to import some from the mainland. And I said we already know this," said Mr Ma.

    According to Taiwan's Apple Daily, Mr Ma looked "flushed" from the meal. But when a Taiwanese reporter asked him during the interview whether he was too trustful of Mr Xi, he shot back in alarm: "Please tell me in which area I have trusted him too much."

    The mainland media have not reported on the dinner, which is of great concern to the Taiwanese side, apparently fearful that some agreements were made behind closed doors.

    Mr Ma also said he thought Mr Xi was a person who made up his mind on key issues quickly.

    He revealed that he used the phrases "Republic of China" (ROC) and "different interpretations of One China" - which are taboo to China - at the meal, but Mr Xi did not react.

    Beijing, which considers Taiwan a renegade province to be reunified by force if necessary, recoils at any suggestion that the self-ruled island, whose official name is ROC, is an independent entity.

    Saturday's talks were the first meeting between the highest leaders from both sides since 1949, when Taiwan came under a different government after the Communist Party took over the mainland.

    Mainland reports said the most significant takeaway from the talks is that both sides reiterated they belong to "one China".

    But Mr Ma told the media immediately after the talks that both sides would have to bolster their 1992 consensus that the "one China" principle is subject to different interpretations. AGENCIES