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Taiwan, China to hold first-ever summit in Singapore

Posted November. 05, 2015 09:40,   


China and Taiwan will hold their first summit since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. China`s Taiwan Affairs Office and Taiwan`s Office of the President officially announced Wednesday that the leaders of the two sides will hold their first meeting in Singapore on Saturday.

China`s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun said in an announcement through the Xinhua News Agency that Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou will exchange views on peaceful development of the relations across the Taiwan Straits. "In line with the one-China principle, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have reached the pragmatic arrangement, showing their willingness to push aside differences while respecting each other," Zhang said.

Taiwanese presidential spokesman Chen Yi-hsin unveiled the planned talks on Tuesday evening, noting that the meeting`s purpose is "to promote peace cross the Taiwan Strait and maintain status quo" and that no concrete agreement nor any joint statement will be announced.

Xi is scheduled to visit Singapore on Friday and Saturday at Singapore President Tony Tan`s invitation after visiting Vietnam on Thursday and Friday. The Taiwanese leader will fly to the city-state on his presidential flight on Saturday for a meeting and dinner with Xi at the Shangri-La Hotel, before returning to Taipei on the same day.

Although Beijing officially treats Taiwan as a regional government under the one-China principle, the Chinese president has revealed his will to engage Taiwan as an independent state by accepting a meeting with Taiwan`s top leader. When China`s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang announced the planned summit, he consistently used the expression "the leaders of the two sides" without mentioning Taiwan`s state name and noted that they agreed to salute each other "mister," reflecting the complicated nature of the cross-strait relations.

Xi and Ma will also have dinner after the meeting. Zhang said that the talks will mark "a breakthrough in face-to-face exchange and communication between the two leaders across the Taiwan Strait," suggesting that the two sides will hold regular summits. For Ma, who has been focusing on improving relations with Beijing by promoting trade, transportation and communication with mainland China since his inauguration in May 2008, the upcoming summit is said to be his ultimate accomplishment in mending fences with China. Since taking office, Ma has adhered to the "Three Nos" principles (no reunification, no independence, no use of force) in dealing with the cross-strait relations.

The surprise announcement of the cross-strait summit will likely have a great impact on Taiwan`s presidential election on January 16, 2016. Currently, Eric Chu, the presidential candidate of the pro-Beijing and ruling Chinese Nationalist Party, is lagging far behind rival Tsai Ing-wen of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who calls for keeping a distance with China.

Analysts say that China gave Ma a "huge present" as a message that Beijing wants the Chinese Nationalist Party`s victory. The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun also reported that Beijing was trying to prevent the Taiwanese opposition party from taking back power.

As Chu happens to be scheduled to visit the United States on November 10 to explain his party`s policy toward China and try to win U.S. support, attention is drawn to how Washington will react. However, there is a possibility that the upcoming cross-strait summit will backfire, given considerable resistance to the rapid development in the Beijing-Taipei relations after Ma`s inauguration. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. welcomed any steps to reduce tensions and improve relations, but added, "We`ll have to see what actually comes out of the meeting."