Thu, Nov 05, 2015 - Page 9 News List

Beijing says Ma-Xi meeting arranged to address ‘irresolution’

By Jane Perlez and Austin Ramzy  /  NY Times News Service, BEIJING

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) are to meet in Singapore on Saturday, the first such meeting since the Chinese Communist revolution of 1949 and the retreat of the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration across the Taiwan Strait.

The Beijing office in charge of Taiwan relations said in a brief statement that the two leaders would exchange views on promoting developments during a long-scheduled two-day visit of Xi to Singapore, a country that has good relations with both sides.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) said the meeting had been arranged “given the situation of the irresolution of cross-strait political differences.”

A spokesman for Ma, whose KMT is floundering at the polls before the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 16, announced the meeting late on Tuesday night.

Presidential Office spokesperson Charles Chen (陳以信) said that no agreements were envisioned.

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

He has sought strong connections with Britain and the European continent as a counterweight to the US, and met with Burmese leader of the opposition Aung San Suu Kyi, even though China has traditionally supported the military in Myanmar.

Xi is to arrive in Singapore from a visit to Vietnam, a country also ruled by a Communist party, but that has had testy relations with China.

The encounter with Ma comes after Xi has pushed China’s regional aspirations to the fore by building artificial islands in the South China Sea and, soon after becoming president, taking a strong anti-Japan stance.

The gesture toward Ma shows a more conciliatory side, one that might not help to pull off a victory for the KMT, but nonetheless, could be interpreted as not particularly threatening.

However, the encounter with Ma could produce a backlash in Taiwan, prompting more voters to support the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has held a commanding lead in the polls over the past year.

CHANGES?

Even if the KMT does not win, the meeting could set the groundwork for changes that suit China in the long run, according to Wang Yangjin (王英京), a professor of political science at Renmin University of China in Beijing, who specializes in Taiwan-China relations.

“There are very good economic relations between China and Taiwan, but we cannot expect any breakthrough on politics,” said Shi Yinhong (時殷弘), a professor of international relations at the university. “If they had met two years ago it would have been quite important politically, but now I don’t think this can produce any substantial political impact.”

Despite the improved ties in recent years, the Chinese government continues to adhere to its policy that Taiwan is a breakaway province and that unification is inevitable — by force if necessary.

Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Mao Zedong (毛澤東) met in Chongqing, China’s wartime capital, in August 1945. While lower-level representatives of the two sides continued to meet during the Chinese Civil War, Mao and Chiang never met again, University of Hong Kong history professor Xu Guoqi (徐國琦) said.

Last year, representatives of Taiwan and China met officially for the first time since the revolution. The meeting in Nanjing, China, produced no major breakthroughs, but was seen as the result of Ma’s efforts to forge closer ties.

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