Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou came together on neutral ground in the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore, walking toward each other in a hotel ballroom in front of a backdrop of yellow, a traditional colour of Chinese emperors.

The two men smiled broadly as they shook hands for more than one minute, turning slightly to the side to accommodate a host of photojournalists in the ballroom.

No national flags were present, a necessary work-around to overcome China's refusal to recognise Taiwan's sovereignty or its government's formal legitimacy, and the two men were referred to merely as 'Mr Xi' and 'Mr Ma' to further reduce the chances of bruised sensitivities.

Ma said, "Both sides should respect each others values and way of life," while adding that relations between the sides were "the most peaceful and stable they have ever been."

When they split in 1949, both sides aspired to absorb the other, with each claiming the mantle of the only legitimate government of all of China, Taiwan included. Critics of Ma in Taiwan are wary that his meeting with Xi and similar contacts will pave the way for Beijing to assert greater control over the island, further deepening its international isolation.

Ma said Xi told him that China would "appropriately handle" Taiwanese moves toward greater participation on a case-by-case basis. Both sides had said no agreements would be signed or joint statements issued.

Latest News from World News Desk