MA-XI MEETING: US officials fear meeting will not benefit relations

GROWING SUSPICION::Carnegie Endowment for International Peace vice president Douglas Paal said the meeting might not contribute to stability

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Sun, Nov 08, 2015 - Page 3

US officials fear that the meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) would fail to benefit cross-strait relations, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan said.

“Public opinion polls have continuously shown growing suspicion of China’s ever closer economic embrace of Taiwan,” said Douglas Paal, who serves as vice president at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He added: “This combines in a volatile cocktail with resentment of recent unilateral Chinese actions regarding flight routes over the Taiwan Strait and travel documents to China. And there is malaise about Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation, slower economic growth than in previous eras and the mismatch between Taiwan’s youth and labor markets that has limited their perceived opportunities.”

In an article published on the Carnegie Web site, Paal said that “many current and former officials also privately convey fears that the meeting and its results would reverberate on Taiwan and China in ways that might not contribute to stability and maintenance of the ‘status quo.’”

Regarding a possible last minute concession to Taiwan by Xi — such as permitting an increased presence in international organizations — Paal said “what Beijing might consider a generous offer could be seen in Taipei as a devious trap.”

The Ma-Xi meeting continued to attract widespread news coverage in the US on Friday, with the New York Times running an opinion piece by Tiananmen Square student leader Wuer Kaixi, who is based in Taiwan.

He said that “the world would witness nothing but politics at its most cynical” at the meeting.

Wuer Kaixi said that Xi was persecuting dissent and freedom of speech, systematically arresting human rights lawyers and “parading a Stalinesque purge of his political enemies as a crackdown on corruption.”

The newspaper also carried a story from Hong Kong on Friday saying that Beijing had discovered that in Taiwan “money cannot buy love.”

It said the Ma-Xi meeting seemed to be an implicit acknowledgment by Xi that China’s efforts to woo Taiwan with economic benefits alone had been unsuccessful and that Beijing’s dream of unification with the nation “is as distant as ever, despite a long courtship.”