MA-XI MEETING: ‘Neither of us is a good drinker,’ Ma says of China’s Xi

IN-DEPTH INSIGHT?:Ma said that during dinner with the Chinese leader, they talked about zodiac signs, alcoholic drinks and regional produce

Staff writer, with CNA

Mon, Nov 09, 2015 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he sees Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) as a leader who is able to make quick decisions.

Asked about his impressions of the Chinese leader after their meeting and dinner in Singapore on Saturday, Ma told reporters on a flight back to Taiwan that “apparently neither of us is a good drinker.”

The two leaders and half a dozen officials from either side had a closed-door meeting, followed by a dinner in which liquor — kaoliang from Taiwan and maotai from China — as well as rice wine from Matsu were served.

Sitting next to each other at a round table, he and Xi talked about alcoholic drinks, Chinese zodiac signs and special produce from various regions, among other topics, Ma said.

Prior to their meeting, Ma said had learned about Xi only by reading.

Having finally met him, Ma said he found Xi capable of making decisions quickly on some issues, such as the possibility of allowing more Chinese students to come to Taiwan.

During their summit, Ma said he mentioned the hope of many Taiwanese universities that China would allow students to pursue university degrees in Taiwan.

It is difficult to gain a place to study at universities in China, while there are about 20,000 vacant places per year in Taiwan, Ma told Xi.

On hearing this, Xi instructed China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) to deal with the issue, “just like that,” Ma said.

Regarding a bilateral trade-in-goods agreement and the proposed exchange of representative offices, Xi said China would work on those issues as soon as possible, Ma told reporters.

Ma is due to step down in May next year and is likely to be replaced by the Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who has said that she would work to maintain the cross-strait “status quo,” although she does not recognize much of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) “understandings” on cross-strait relations.