China / HK Macao Taiwan

Singapore plays positive role in ties with Taiwan

By HE NA/WANG YANFEI (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-05 09:27

Singapore, which has been a wellspring for key advancements in cross-Straits ties in the past, is once again attracting world attention with an announcement by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council that General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Xi Jinping and Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou will meet there on Saturday to exchange views on the future of relations.

It will be the first cross-Straits meeting between top leaders of both sides of the Taiwan Straits since the founding of New China in 1949.

Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies, said he believes Singapore was chosen mainly because it has played a special role in relations in the past.

In April 1993, Wang Daohan, then-president of the mainland-based Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits, and Koo Chenfu, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation in Taiwan, held a groundbreaking meeting in Singapore.

"The meeting marked the beginning of cross-Straits engagement and laid the foundation for further improvement of ties," Ni said. "Lee Kuan-yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, played an important role in promoting the success of the meeting. Singapore's contribution to cross-Straits relations has been written into history."

Ni said that Xi and Ma had many choices of places to meet, but Singapore was best. As a country whose main population has ancestral homes in China, Singapore has long played a positive role, he said.

"Singaporean leaders have maintained close relations with both sides over the years and earned their mutual trust," he said.

However, Li Jiaquan, former director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Taiwan Studies, expressed a different view, saying he thought the choice of Singapore was merely expedient.

"Taiwan's election campaign is heading into the homestretch, and the Kuomintang is facing a landslide defeat. The KMT is determined to win support from the mainland to turn the situation around," Li said. "It is the last chance for the KMT. The Singapore meeting fills a need at the right time."

Some media have called the meeting a "surprise", but Zhang Guanhua, deputy head of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at CASS, said it was to be expected.

"Actually the meeting is an event both sides have hoped for-and for a long time-since relations with the mainland began to warm after Ma came to power in 2008," Zhang said.

According to Zhang, Singapore in some sense is considered a blessed place. Holding the meeting there is a reminder of progress already achieved in cross-Straits relations, he said.

"We need to consider and deal with cross-Straits relations in a strategic way, with a long-run view. Cross-straits peaceful development will not change because of the election result."

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