Top government officials gave a positive, if lukewarm, response to the latest developments in cross-strait relations at the APEC meeting in Bali, Indonesia, while the opposition party lambasted Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for pressuring Taiwan to open political negotiations based on China’s terms.
Top cross-strait officials — Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) — met on Sunday, and they addressed each other by their official titles, Presidential Office spokeseprson Li Chia-fei (李佳霏) said.
“President Ma said such moves exemplify that the two sides do not deny each other’s authority to govern,” she added.
Li said that the Wang-Zhang meeting marks a good start for normalizing official interactions across the Taiwan Strait, and it serves as an important milestone for the institutionalization of bilateral relations.
Asked about President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) reaction to Xi’s comments suggesting that China would not allow Taiwan to put off political talks, Li said there would be no further statement from the president on the issue.
Xi said at a meeting with former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), Ma’s envoy to APEC, on Sunday that the “longstanding political division between the two sides will have to be eventually resolved step-by-step as it should not be passed down from generation to generation.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leaders rebuffed the comments made by Xi.
Honigmann Hong (洪財隆), head of DPP’s Department of China Affairs accused Ma of selling out Taiwan’s sovereignty.
“Ma is surrendering Taiwan to be bound up inside the ‘one China’ noose. He is only thinking of his place in history, by creating conditions for a ‘Ma-Xi meeting’ next year,” Hong said.
“In doing so, Ma has wasted good opportunities at the APEC summit, for active participation to present ideas and proposals and that represent Taiwan’s rights,” he added.
DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said there was a clear subtext to Xi insisting that the division between the two sides should not continue indefinitely.
“This indicates China is becoming impatient because cross-strait talks are actually bypassing a sticky political issue, by focusing on economic integration. Xi is pressuring Taiwan back to the negotiating table,” Chen said.
DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said it was clear from Xi’s words that after pushing for economic integration, China would push for political integration.
“Xi outlined his ‘one China’ framework, which nullifies the so-called ‘1992 consensus,’” Lin said, referring to the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) policy that there is “one China, with each side having its own interpretation.”
“Xi’s comment has also trounced Ma’s efforts for the past five years to exploit the ambiguity contained in the ‘1992 consensus,’” he added.
Other DPP officials questioned Ma’s interpretation of Wang and Zhang addressing each other by their official titles as “embodying mutual non-denial.”
One DPP official said that this was political ploy, as neither China’s People’s Daily, the Beijing Daily nor any PRC state media had mentioned Wang and Zhang addressing each other by their official titles.
Regarding the interpretation that Xi’s comment was aimed at pressuring Taiwan onto a fast-track schedule for unification, Wang told reporters in Bali that it was just Xi expressing China’s own stance and viewpoints.
“For us [Taiwan], we should approach the issue at our own pace, and must respect the opinions of our citizens,” Wang said.
“Looking at the current public opinion, it is likely too early to deal with this issue [of political unification],” he said.
Additional reporting by Chen Ching-min and Chou Yung-chieh