Officially, China and Taiwan are still at war. However, ties between Beijing and Taipei have improved over the past few years. DW spoke to Liu Te-shun, vice minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council in Berlin.
Berlin Mitte, right on city’s Gendarmenmarkt square, is one of the best locations in the German capital.
The building houses the "Representative Office of Taiwan." No, it's not an embassy. Only 23 states maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and Germany is not one of them.
Like the other states of the European Union, Germany acknowledges that Taiwan belongs officially to a China whose capital is Beijing - the People's Republic of China.
Although the island has acted independently of the mainland for over half a century and has developed into a flourishing democracy after decades of one-party rule by the Kuomintang, Beijing would consider any official declaration of independence as an act of war.
The Representative Office is hosting an important guest at the beginning of June: Liu Te-shun, the vice minister of the Mainland Affairs Council, has been working for the most important body for shaping relations between Taiwan and mainland China for 20 years.
This is how long the "1992 Consensus" has been in place. It emerged from talks between Taiwan's Kuomintang Party and the Communist Party of China, in which both sides agreed there is only "one China."
However, each side, agreeing to disagree, interprets this "one China" differently.
Promoting mutual exchange
Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's current president, has already signed 15 agreements with the mainland. Earlier this year, he was re-elected with a large majority to a second term in office. However, observers interpreted his electoral success as an endorsement of the status quo rather than as a mandate for a closer relationship with mainland China.
Liu told DW that economic matters are high on the agenda, with more trust needed before political questions can be broached. However, economic exchange also means more dependence. Some 40 percent of Taiwan's exports already go to the mainland.
Ahead of the change of mainland leadership that is set to take place this autumn, mutual exchange is key, Liu said. "Many Chinese students come to Taiwan to get to know the country better. Through systematic accords, Chinese officials can gain a practical insight into our government system. With time, we hope to be able to influence China's communist system to a certain degree."
Moving towards rapprochement
It is not surprising in this light that Liu was very interested in German political veteran Egon Bahr's visit to Taiwan last year. The 90-year-old politician was a key player in promoting rapprochement between West and East Germany. "Bahr said President Ma had significantly changed the hostile relationship between China and Taiwan through exchange, talks and agreements," Liu told DW, saying he was glad to see his principle of "change through rapprochement" being applied.
Liu Te-shun made it clear that Taipei is reluctant to rely on Beijing's goodwill. "President Ma has always said we first have to be in a position to defend ourselves and then the country can deal with its relationship with China."
For its part, Beijing seems to have put its faith in time. After China's militant intimidation efforts during Jiang Zemin's rule in the 1990s, President Hu Jintao opted for a softer approach and extended an olive branch to Taipei by proposing his six-point plan at the end of 2008.
Liu remains cautious: "We of course hope that our institutions or social systems will develop in the same direction. But how can we do that? We cannot fix a deadline here."
Author: Matthias von Hein / act
Editor: Richard Connor