Newspaper article China Post

Communication Is the Challenge at Ma-XI Meet

Newspaper article China Post

Communication Is the Challenge at Ma-XI Meet

Article excerpt

President Ma Ying-jeou announced his plan to meet his mainland Chinese counterpart Xi Jin-ping in Singapore this Saturday, hours after local media broke the news on Tuesday. The first meeting between the leader of Taiwan and the mainland since 1949 has since been on international front pages.

The fact that Ma has been trying to realize the historic meeting and his motivation behind it are not secrets. Despite his promise when running for re-election in 2011 that he would not meet with any Chinese presidents when in office, Ma has publicly expressed his wish to represent Taiwan and meet with Xi at the 2014 APEC summit in Beijing. Xi rejected the idea of meeting the Taiwanese president at a gathering of Asian-Pacific leaders.

Some members of the opposition parties and detractors of Ma have as expected decried Ma's planned meeting as part of a "black box operation" to sell out Taiwan. The overall mood of the opposition, however, is relatively measured, at least for the time being. The group of protesters outside the Presidential Office and Legislative Yuan yesterday was relatively small. Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen said that her party supports normal interactions with mainland China but called on the president not to "limit Taiwan's future" for his own political legacy. Her comment reflects public opinion that Ma is more likely looking for his place in history with the landmark meeting rather than to hand over the nation to Xi.

What is more unclear is Xi's angle. The mainland Chinese leader should have realized that whatever he will gain from his meeting with Ma will be symbolic. The unpopular lame duck president, who has lost the leadership even of his own party, simply has no clout to offer any deal.

Yet a symbolic result can be hugely significant. Local media interpreted Xi's motive as harvesting whatever he can from the current pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) administration before the 2016 presidential election that KMT is expected to lose. A meeting with the Taiwanese president would boost Xi's standing in mainland China. …

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