The land­mark China-Tai­wan sum­mit

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -


The sum­mit be­tween Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Tai­wan Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou in Sin­ga­pore yes­ter­day is the first meet­ing be­tween lead­ers from the two sides since their 1949 split af­ter a bloody civil war. Fol­low­ing are key ques­tions sur­round­ing the his­toric en­counter:

Why is meet­ing sig­nif­i­cant?

The es­trange­ment that be­gan in 1949 when the Com­mu­nist army forced China’s Na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment to re­treat to Tai­wan re­mains one of the world’s last Cold War-era po­lit­i­cal di­vides. The di­vorce split fam­i­lies, led to decades of ten­sion and pe­ri­odic fire across the Tai­wan Strait, and left a wound in the Chi­nese psy­che that both sides have yearned to heal for decades. So any progress to­wards bridg­ing the rift trig­gers in­tense emo­tions while rais­ing the prospect of en­dur­ing sta­bil­ity be­tween two dy­namic economies-and the Xi-Ma meet­ing is eas­ily the most sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward yet.

Why now?

Cross-strait ties have steadily warmed un­der Ma’s seven-year-old gov­ern­men­twhich favours mov­ing closer to Chi­naw­ith the sum­mit mark­ing a key mile­stone. But China has long spurned toplevel con­tact with what it con­sid­ers an il­le­git­i­mate prov­ince, and Xi’s mo­ti­va­tions for meet­ing Ma now re­main un­clear. Many, how­ever, be­lieve Tai­wan’s Jan­uary elec­tions are a key fac­tor. Bei­jing strongly prefers Ma’s Kuom­intang (KMT) party over the more in­de­pen­dent-minded Demo­cratic Pro­gres­sive Party (DPP), which re­mains deeply wary of the main­land Chi­nese colos­sus next door.

But the KMT is widely ex­pected to be trounced in Jan­uary, and the sum­mit has trig­gered spec­u­la­tion that Bei­jing is an­gling to boost the party’s stand­ing ahead of the elec­tions. An­a­lysts be­lieve China may also be seek­ing to ap­pear the peace­maker to counter the grow­ing alarm among its neigh­bors over its rapid mil­i­tary buildup and in­creas­ingly un­com­pro­mis­ing mar­itime ter­ri­to­rial claims.

What is the agenda?

The meet­ing is deeply sen­si­tive for both sides and thus lit­tle has been made known about the ex­pected talk­ing points. Ma’s camp has said the sum­mit’s goal was to “se­cure cross-strait peace” but that there would be no agree­ment signed or joint state­ment. China, ever-fear­ful of ap­pear­ing to le­git­imise Tai­wan’s gov­ern­ment, has said al­most noth­ing about the meet­ing be­yond a con­fir­ma­tion by its state me­dia that it would take place.

Po­ten­tial risks and re­wards

Taipei has be­come in­creas­ingly marginal­ized on the world stage as China’s clout grows, and Ma has voiced hope the meet­ing could lead to “greater in­ter­na­tional space” for Tai­wan. Bet­ter re­la­tions also could help China lure the is­land into its eco­nomic and diplo­matic or­bit and po­ten­tially un­der­cut Tai­wan’s US ties, which in­clude an Amer­i­can pledge to as­sist Taipei in the event of war that China deeply re­sents. But the sum­mit is a po­ten­tial gam­ble for both Xi and Ma. It could backfire if al­ready China-wary vot­ers in Tai­wan view it as an at­tempt to in­flu­ence the vote and award a strong DPP man­date that puts cross-strait rap­proche­ment on hold.—AFP

SIN­GA­PORE: Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping (right) and Tai­wan Pres­i­dent Ma Ying­jeou wave to jour­nal­ists be­fore their meet­ing at Shangrila ho­tel in Sin­ga­pore yes­ter­day. —AFP

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