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Low chances of meeting between Xi and Ma

Publication Date : 15-02-2014


The chances of an unprecedented meeting between the leaders of China and Taiwan happening at the Apec Summit later this year are "not high".

Wang Yu-chi, Taiwan's official in charge of mainland affairs, gave this assessment on Friday, saying China's view is that such a platform is "not appropriate".

He and his mainland counterpart Zhang Zhijun had discussed the issue on Thursday, at the latter's initiative. For the first time, the issue was broached, raising hopes of a historic meeting between leaders from the two sides.

Contact between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou would also have been a major coup for Taipei. Ma and his predecessors have been barred from the international economic forum because of objections from Beijing.

Wang said no alternative platforms had been suggested for the leaders to meet.

"Right now, we still feel the Apec Summit is the most suitable venue for such a meeting. If they think not, the chances of it happening are not high."

Still, he left a ray of hope, saying: "Our stances are different, but we have said before, we are open to a Ma-Xi meeting if the occasion, timing and status are right and befitting."

Despite the setback, the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said his landmark trip to China - which saw the first-ever official contact between the two sides since 1949 - hit the marks that he had set for it.

"We had two goals: to increase mutual understanding and to raise issues of concern," said Wang at a press conference here after a four-day trip through Nanjing and Shanghai. "We achieved both."

One key outcome was the agreement to institutionalise regular, official exchanges. Wang says they will take place via phone calls, with links established at various levels of the MAC and Zhang's Taiwan Affairs Office, both Cabinet-level agencies.

Another achievement was more symbolic: Wang's speech at Nanjing University, in which he extolled Taiwan society, including its democratic system, as well as at the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, where he referred to Taiwan's official name, the Republic of China, and declared that Dr Sun's principles for democracy are being realised in Taiwan.

The aim was to underscore the "political reality" that both sides are governed separately.

While it was still too early to say if China now fully accepts that the two sides are governed separately, "we will continue to work on this", said Wang.

Despite disappointment over the lack of substantive outcomes, such as in getting Beijing's backing for Taiwan's participation in multilateral trade pacts, Wang stressed that not all problems could be solved on a single trip.

"Since the split 65 years ago, this is the first official meeting. This is an important milestone, and I believe it will have significance for the future. We will continue on from here, to achieve peace in the Taiwan Strait."

The trip has gained lukewarm support from Taiwanese - a poll by TV station TVBS shows 36 per cent were happy with Wang's performance and 24 per cent were not. Those in the pro-independence camp, such as Professor Tung Chen-yuan of National Chengchi University, have expressed some measure of support. "It's a start - a small step toward normalising ties."

That cross-strait interaction is gaining pace is clear. As Wang's trip ended on Friday, an announcement came that Lien Chan, the ruling Kuomintang's honorary chairman, will meet Xi in Beijing next week.

Lien's office said the delegation will voice expectations and suggestions for exchanges "in the hope that China can directly understand and keep abreast of Taiwan's public opinions".


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