Xi-Ma meeting to provide `new momentum` to relations

Wang Wen

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Xi-Ma meeting to provide `new momentum` to relations


Source: China.org.cn    Published: 2015-11-5


Wang Wen was quoted in China.org.cn on Xi-Ma`s upcoming meeting


The upcoming meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou on Nov. 7 will be "historic" and provide "new momentum" to cross-Strait relations, said some scholars and Taiwan affairs specialists on Wednesday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou (R) will meet in Singapore on Nov. 7. [File photo composite]


The two sides announced late Tuesday night that the two leaders will meet in Singapore, where the Chinese President will visit from Nov. 6 to 7.

`New momentum` to relations

The meeting, the first of its kind in six and a half decades, will prove "historic and transformational" by setting a precedent of direct communication between leaders of the two sides, Li Yihu, dean of Peking University`s Taiwan Studies Institute told China.org.cn over the phone. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People`s Congress, China`s legislature.

Previously, relations between the two sides were mainly driven by signings of deals, but that mode has virtually lost its steam now and the two sides need to find a new driving force, Li said.

"Now, a direct meeting between the two leaders will provide new momentum and be a driving force for the cross-Strait relations, as such meetings can boost relations from the perspective of the highest decision-making body," he added.

Zhang Zhijun, head of the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, was quoted by China`s state-run Xinhua News Agency as saying that the meeting is a "milestone" for cross-Strait relations, breaking through with direct exchange and communication between the two leaders since 1949.

Zhang`s words were echoed by Wang Wen, the Executive Dean of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, at China`s Renmin University. He believed that the meeting will mark a key "leap" for cross-Strait relations. "It is a decisive and visionary decision made by the two policy-makers and will have historic significance," he said.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou`s office announced that no agreement or joint statement will be signed during the meeting, raising doubts of any substantial outcome. However, scholars believe that the historic and symbolic significance of the meeting will outweigh any immediate outcome.

"Given that the most senior leaders from across the Straits will come together to meet and talk with each other, it signals that there is no meeting that is not possible or any topic that cannot be talked about, and that is the most significant meaning of the meeting." said Feng Yue, a researcher of the Institute of Political Science of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

What might be on the table?

The two leaders across the Straits will "exchange views on promoting the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations," according to Zhang Zhijun, head of China`s Taiwan affairs office. In a press interview on Wednesday, he further revealed that the first part of the meeting will be open to the press and then the second part will be "closed-door."

Li Yihu of Peking University argued that the meeting will be held "in the framework of maintaining the momentum of peaceful development of the relations and further cement the achievements already made in the past." He added that more details will have to be seen after the meeting.

Feng Yue of CASS believes the meeting will dwell on the "macro" level, in other words, the two leaders may reaffirm their principles on cross-Strait relations without probing into details.

As to the problematic issues between the two sides, scholars argued they will not be solved in one meeting. "The fact that the two leaders can meet, talk and then have dinner together is already a substantial outcome. You cannot expect all the disputes between the two sides to be resolved once and for all," said Feng Yue.

Impacts on Taiwan election?

The meeting comes at a critical time in Taiwan, where the island will be holding a leadership election in January of next year. The Kuomingtang (KMT), of which Ma Ying-jeou operated as the leader until the party suffered a crushing defeat in the local election last year, is currently struggling with the January election.

The announcement of the meeting "took the (opposing party), the Democratic Progressive Party, by surprise and has boosted the morale of the KMT," Huang Rihan, a senior researcher with Phoenix International Thing Tank and the Charhar Institute, wrote to China.org.cn. The meeting will help improve the performance of the KMT in the election, he added.

However, other scholars are not so sure. "One or two meetings will probably not have immense impact on the KMT`s performance in the election in Taiwan", said Feng Yue of CASS, but he added that it may not prove a backlash as some analysts in Taiwan have suggested. It may turn out to be a positive but limited boost to the KMT, he said.

"The general policies from the Chinese mainland will not change, but there may be some improvement in our working methods towards Taiwan," Feng said.

Why Singapore?

The historic meeting is set to be held in Singapore, where President Xi will be visiting from Nov. 6 to 7. Scholars have noted the delicacy of choosing the host place.

"Since the time of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore has been a key channel for interactions between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan," said Feng Yue of CASS, noting that a landmark meeting between the two sides took place in Singapore in 1993.

Other scholars have noted that Chinese culture features prominently in Singapore, where more than 70 percent of the citizens are of Chinese origin. "Singapore is fundamentally a Chinese community with strong elements of Chinese culture, and the two leaders have always placed high emphasis on Chinese culture," said Li Yihu of Peking University, "Thus, having the meeting in a country that is rich with Chinese culture is innovative, and it will start off an innovative exploration of exchange between the two sides."

Wang Wen is the Excutive Dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.