Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi’s (王郁琦) participation in Taiwan’s delegation to this year’s annual APEC meeting is meant to pave the way for a meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at next year’s summit in Shanghai, some opposition politicians and political analysts say.
The council has never sent its minister to the summits before and has been an invisible presence in previous meetings, in which it has only had a hand in preparatory work. This is why the inclusion of Wang — a close Ma aide — in the delegation this year and his agency’s leadership in making arrangements for talks between former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), Ma’s APEC envoy, and Xi yesterday have raised observers’ suspicions, although Wang and the council have denied a hidden agenda.
Wang and his Chinese counterpart, Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), spoke briefly in the lobby of Hotel Laguna in Bali, Indonesia, addressing each other by their official titles.
Tung Li-wen (董立文), former director of the Democratic Progressive Party’s China Affairs Office, said that yesterday’s meeting was held to pave the way not only for a Ma-Xi meeting, but also for more talks between Wang and Zhang.
If Wang and Zhang hold talks, it would signal a change in Ma’s cross-strait policy of addressing economic issues before political ones, he said.
In their meeting, Xi told Siew that a political solution to the countries’ standoff over sovereignty cannot be postponed forever.
“Xi’s comments showed that several analysts in Taiwan could have misread Xi’s agenda when they said the Chinese leader would not rush political negotiations,” Taiwan Thinktank researcher Lai I-chung (賴怡忠) said.
With regards to the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement, Lai said the pact was a key step en route to bilateral political talks.
While the Ma administration has played down a Ma-Xi meeting in Shanghai, the summit is likely to become a platform of quasi-political dialogues between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Beijing in the future, Lai said.
Some academics said Wang and Zhang using their formal titles was a big leap forward in bilateral ties.
Chou Jih-chine (周繼祥), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development, said the move indicated “mutual non-denial,” while Chang Wu-yuch (張五岳), dean of Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of China Studies, said it could offer a solution to the appellation problem of officials from both sides.
Additional reporting by staff writer and CNA