Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou are scheduled to hold a milestone summit this weekend in Singapore. This will be the first time Chinese and Taiwanese top leaders have met in 66 years, since members of the Chinese Nationalist Party fled to the island of Taiwan at the end of its civil war with the Chinese Communist Party in 1949.
The respective leaders are set to make history on Saturday, November 7th in Singapore, where Xi will be for an official state visit. The leaders will meet at the Shangri-La Hotel and enjoy dinner together afterwards.
Xi and Ma will keep things friendly by addressing each other as “mister” rather than “President” as they “exchange views on cross-strait issues,” Ma’s presidential spokesman Charles Chen detailed last night. He also went on to highlight that a major aim of the meeting was to try to “secure cross-strait peace”.
Taiwan and China have been separately governed since 1949. At that time Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) formed its own government in Taiwan after Mao Zedong’s communists took control over mainland China. Since then the PRC has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan and in 2005 passed a law that makes secession by Taiwan illegal, at the risk of military intervention.
Previously, the CCP has been reluctant to meet with a Taiwanese leader for fear that the meeting might legitimize the government there.
Since Ma’s election in 2008, however, relations between the two neighbors has at last begun to thaw. Chen said President Ma’s aim was “to promote peace across the Taiwan Strait and maintain the status quo”.
“No agreement will be signed, and no joint statement issued,” he said. Ma will hold a press conference on Thursday to explain his decision to hold the talks.
It has been suggested that Beijing has been trying to strengthen cross-strait trade in order to draw Taiwan economically closer to the mainland, leading to an eventual political union. Despite this, reunification with the mainland has been increasingly opposed, especially by younger generations in Taiwan.
With Taiwanese elections just three months away and the KMT party struggling mightily, there are fears in China that recent progress that has been made to establish closer ties may be ruined by the pro-independence opposition party led by Tsai Ing-wen, who currently leads comfortably in the polls.
By Daniel Paul