Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Xi and Ma to energize exchanges

By Zhu Songling (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-07 09:04

Xi and Ma to energize exchanges

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, meets with Lien Chan, honorary chairman of the KMT, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Sept 1, 2015. Lien Chan was invited to attend the Sept 3 military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the WWII Victory over Japanese aggression, a victory won through the cooperation of the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang in Chinese mainland. [Photo/Xinhua]

Top leader of the Chinese mainland Xi Jinping is scheduled to meet Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore on Saturday, signaling a new high in cross-Straits exchanges and a new phase in the peaceful development of relations between the mainland and Taiwan.

The historic, high-level meeting reflects the great wisdom and decisiveness of both sides of the Straits, given that their political disputes - for example, the two leaders' official titles and positions at the meeting - are yet to be resolved. No agreement will be signed and no joint statement will be reached at the meeting, however.

During the first meeting of "leaders across Taiwan Straits", they will address each other as Mr Xi and Mr Ma. Such pragmatic arrangement is not only in accordance with the one-China principle and the spirit of mutual respect; it will also bring out the best in the Xi-Ma talks as opposed to wild speculations that Taiwan has been "dwarfed" in this relationship.

The venue of the meeting, too, is a brilliant choice, arrived at through careful mutual consultation. As a country a majority of whose population has ancestral roots in China, Singapore has always played a positive role in bonding both sides of the Straits. Lee Kuan-yew, Singapore's first prime minister, made efforts to establish permanent rapprochement across the Straits.

One momentous event took place in 1993 when Singapore hosted the groundbreaking meeting between Wang Daohan, then president of the Chinese mainland-based Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits, and Koo Chen-fu, chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation. The meeting marked the beginning of cross-Straits engagement on the basis of the "1992 Consensus" that there is only one China.

The historic meeting between Xi and Ma is the result of the peaceful cross-Straits development over the past seven years or so. Back in 2005, after Hu Jintao, then general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, met visiting Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan, the two parties released the "common prospects for peaceful cross-Straits development". Later when the Kuomintang returned to power in Taiwan, it opened a rare window for both sides to increase their interactions.

Admittedly, the complicated politics in Taiwan is a test for cross-Straits relations and stability, which makes it necessary for the two leaders to sit down face to face and exchange concrete ideas to boost shared development.

The world will be closely watching what stance Xi and Ma take on cross-Straits relations during their landmark meeting, because shared peaceful development largely depends on mutual trust and a common political ground.

Such being said, the two leaders are supposed to stick to the 1992 Consensus and seek to improve the well-being of people on both sides of the Straits by ensuring that cross-Straits cooperation is not sabotaged regardless of which party assumes power in Taiwan in the years to come. That is what "maintaining the status quo in the cross-Straits relations" is really about.

On the relationship between the mainland and Taiwan today and in the future, the leaders' common understanding is expected to usher in a new period of joint management of political disparities. The mainland's robust rise in recent years offers huge opportunities to the entire world. And Taiwan, too, should benefit from it.

As Xi emphasized earlier, it is high time that both leaderships injected fresh momentum into cross-Straits coordination.

The author is a professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Beijing Union University.

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