On November 7, Singapore hosted a historic meeting between Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou, leaders of the Chinese territories separated by the Taiwan Strait. While no substantive agreements were reached and reactions to the meeting have been mixed, it sets a precedent for similar summits in the future, bringing hope for a peaceful resolution to an estrangement that has lasted more than 60 years.

While the fact Singapore is majority ethnic Chinese was a factor, the decision to hold the meeting there underlines decades of deft diplomacy on the part of the multicultural city-state. Despite, or because of, its small size, Singapore has always depended on a pragmatic brand of diplomacy to secure its place in the world, and its quasi-mediator role between China and Taiwan is testament to that.

During the Spring and Autumn period in ancient China, the state of Song also engaged in diplomacy to bring peace between hostile states and protect its own territorial integrity. Centrally located in present-day Henan province, the small state of Song was surrounded by powerful neighbours. Using the cordial relationships Song leaders enjoyed with the heads of the warring states of Jin and Chu, Song brokered the first truce between the two in 579BC. More than three decades later, in 546BC, Song hosted another summit, this time for the leaders of 14 states, including Jin and Chu, during which they all agreed to cease hostilities. Despite their limited success, both peace conferences had a significant impact on the era.