The presidents of China and Taiwan had an historic meeting Saturday after the two countries split in 1949 over civil war. The two world leaders, Xi Jinping of China and Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan were seen shaking hands and smiling at this first historic meeting held between these two nations in 66 years.

The summit between China and Taiwan was held in a neutral location in the Southeast Asian city state of Singapore inside a ballroom of a hotel, and met in front of a yellow background, as yellow is the traditional color for Chinese emperors. After shaking hands and posing for pictures, the two men went behind closed doors to continue their historic meeting and are said to have spoken for about 50 minutes.

Two world leaders praise each other at historic meeting

The remarks between the two men were relayed to the crowd, with the Chinese leader speaking first by praising his Taiwanese counterpart for aiding in helping to mend the relations between the two governments and to restate China’s wish for eventual reunification of the two nations.

The Taiwanese president, Ma, answered by saying that he felt as if they were two old friends even though they have never met before this time. He added that both nations need to have respect for the values and way of life of each country.

Taiwan rival government emerged after 1949 civil war

Taiwan has ruled itself since 1949 when Communist forces led by Mao Zedong were victorious, and the Nationalists, which were headed by Chiang Kaishek, went to Taipei and set up a rival government and claimed it was the actual, legitimate government of both the island and mainland.

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Since then, Taiwan developed itself into a democracy, but never actually declared its full independence from China. Many politicians, particularly those in Ma's political party, follow the so-named One China policy, as well as the fact that China has made threats that it would regain the island if it ever attempts a formal split.

Chinese officials have also suggested in the past that Taiwan could come back to China under an agreement comparable to the one-country-two-systems framework created to defend Hong Kong's lifestyle when it went back to China in 1997.

Some protested the meeting, while others praised it

As the meeting progressed, hundreds of Taiwanese congregated outside the office in Taipei to protest the undemocratic nature of it and there were several arrests at the airport when Ma was on his way to the meeting. The summit was given massive coverage by the media in mainland China.

The U.S. praised the meeting and the attempts in recent years to improve relations between the two governments. The Chinese News agency Xinhua reported that the historic meeting would open up a new chapter in the Chinese nation’s history.