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Chinese, Taiwanese Leaders Will Meet For First Time In More Than 60 Years

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou heads to Singapore this weekend for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou heads to Singapore this weekend for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

The presidents of China and Taiwan are scheduled to meet on Saturday, the only such meeting since the civil war ended in 1949.

The meeting will take place in Singapore. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou will discuss how to improve relations but Taiwan says no agreements are expected.

Leaders of the two sides haven't met since the Communists won the Chinese civil war; the losing nationalists fled to Taiwan, where they established a separate government. The United States recognized the Republic of China, on Taiwan, as the Chinese government until 1972. The Beijing government's stance is that Taiwan is still legally a part of China.

Relations with Beijing still shape every aspect of Taiwanese politics. President Ma is finishing up his time in office and his party, the Nationalist Kuomingtang, is battling to stay in power in January elections.

Taiwanese voters have been skeptical of efforts by Ma and his party to improve relations with the mainland, partly because of perceptions he's gotten too close to China and they fear reunification.

The New York Times reports that the decision to meet is characteristic of the mainland president:

"The meeting with Mr. Ma fits with the bold style of Mr. Xi, who has shown that he likes to take more risks in foreign policy than his predecessors.

"He has led China's assertive policy in the South China Sea, sought strong connections with Britain and the Continent as a counterweight to the United States, and met with Myanmar's opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, even though China has traditionally supported the military in Myanmar."

The Wall Street Journal reports the meeting is risky for the Chinese president:

"The Singapore meeting would likely be portrayed within China as another historic move for President Xi, who vowed last year to take 'a firm and unwavering stance' on national reunification. But it carries risks for Mr. Xi, too, should his efforts to promote reconciliation backfire."