Mon, Jul 16, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Academics analyze Lien-Xi meeting

MOTIVES:The Chinese president discussed finding common ground, but issues with Taiwan could further complicate Beijing’s relationship with the US, an academic said

By Chung Li-hua, Huang Chien-hao and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Former vice president Lien Chan, center, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, in Beijing on Saturday.

Photo: CNA

If Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) genuinely wants to ease cross-strait tensions, he should talk directly with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), not through an opposition party figure who has long left public service, Taiwanese academics said.

Former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) met with Xi on Friday.

Xi said that “as long as the coordinates are correctly set in history, the ship carrying the hope of a peaceful cross-strait unification will eventually sail to the side of victory,” while Lien proposed four ideas to improve cross-strait ties, including that both sides “find common ground on the ‘one China’ principle, while maintaining their different opinions on the meaning of ‘one China.’”

Lin Wen-cheng (林文程), a China and Asia-Pacific regional studies professor at National Sun Yat-sen University, said that despite the rhetoric about providing economic benefits to Taiwanese, Xi must be aware that Bejing’s efforts to strong-arm the country — including poaching Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and forcing airlines to call it a part of China — have angered them.

The fraught situation across the Taiwan Strait is Beijing’s doing, and while Xi mentioned “seeking common ground while shelving differences (求同存異),” this concession is offset by his insistence on using Beijing’s “one China” principle as a precondition for dialogue, Lin said.

The refusal to appreciate the Tsai administration’s position makes the resumption of dialogue between the two governments unlikely, Lin added.

Xi chose to meet Lien, because troubles with Taiwan could further complicate the US-China trade war, he said.

Whether cross-strait tensions continue in the second half of this year could depend on whether the trade war escalates, Lin added without elaborating.

Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen (董立文) said that Xi mentioned the phrases “correct direction” and “correct path” repeatedly during his speech as a defense of his Taiwan policy, which he intended both Taiwan and China to hear.

That Xi mentioned the phrases repeatedly during his speech indicates defensiveness, Tung said.

Xi’s avoidance of naming Tsai or the Democratic Progressive Party government and his remark that “differences in opinion should not obstruct normal exchange across the Strait” could be an invitation for dialogue and de-escalation, Tung said.

Xi had said he would respect Taiwan’s social institutions and way of life, but Beijing still went forward with jailing Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲), as well as its air force and navy drills, he said.

As a result, Taiwanese do not feel the respect that Xi professed to have for Taiwan, and while Taiwanese hope for the best in him, they should continue to “listen to his words, but observe his actions,” Tung said.

During the meeting with Xi, Lien sparked controversy by saying that “cross-strait relations are not state-to-state relations and there is no room for Taiwanese independence.”

When asked to respond, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said both Lien and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) have said Lien does not represent the party.

“If that is the case, Lien represents one opinion out of 23 million, which is his own personal opinion; we should take it for what it is,” Ko said.

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