Speculation stirs over Xi-Ma talks

Updated: 2014-02-18 02:05

By ZHAO SHENGNAN (China Daily)

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Mainland remains open and positive on the possibility, says spokeswoman

Beijing said on Monday it remains "positive and open" about a possible meeting between leaders from both sides of the Taiwan Straits, but gave no clear venue or timeframe for what would be a historic meeting.

A Taiwan-affairs spokeswoman from the mainland made the remarks as recent high-level interactions across the Straits have stirred discussions of a possible meeting between Party chief Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s leader, Ma Ying-jeou.

Xi is scheduled to meet Kuomintang Honorary Chairman Lien Chan on Tuesday.

In 2005, Lien helped resolve a decades-long deadlock between the mainland and Taiwan through his ice-breaking visit to the mainland to meet then-Party chief Hu Jintao.

Lien’s arrival on Monday came shortly after a landmark meeting between Taiwan’s mainland affairs chief, Wang Yu-chi, and his mainland counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, last week, the first formal official meeting between the two sides since 1949.

Both sides agreed to open a regular communication channel between their departments, leading to speculations over whether Xi and Ma will meet this year.

The Taiwan media reported that Lien has no specific mission on the latest mainland visit.

Speaking at a regular press briefing, Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Monday that a Xi-Ma meeting was "not a topic for discussion" during the meeting between Zhang and Wang.

"As for a meeting between the leaders on both sides of the Straits, we have said many times that this is something we have upheld for many years, and we have always had an open and positive attitude toward it."

Compatriots from both sides hope to see such a meeting at an early date to boost the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties and benefit the Chinese nation and people, she added.

The Taiwan media suggested earlier that this year’s APEC meeting, scheduled in Beijing in fall, would be an appropriate occasion for Xi and Ma to meet. Both the mainland and Taiwan are member economies of the APEC regional group.

When asked about an appropriate venue for the Xi-Ma meeting, Fan said the APEC meeting has its own rules and issues should be handled in accordance with relevant memorandums of understanding.

Wang Hailiang, a researcher at the Shanghai-based Taiwan Research Institute, said Lien is likely to push forward a Xi-Ma meeting in Beijing, but cross-Straits relations are so complicated that it remains unclear whether such a meeting can take place this year.

"Both sides are exploring ways to make it happen. They still have some time before this fall," he said.

Lien’s visit highlighted the two sides’ emphasis on exchanges — both public and between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang — that can strengthen mutual trust and complement the regular communication between the two departments in charge of cross-Straits affairs, he added.

The delegation Lien leads includes about 80 members from various sectors in Taiwan. They will attend a forum and exchange ideas with their mainland peers, Fan said, adding that Yu Zhengsheng, head of the mainland’s top advisory body, will also attend the forum.

Cross-Straits relations have improved significantly since Lien’s 2005 visit to the mainland and Ma’s taking office in 2008. A series of landmark trade and economic agreements have since been signed between the two sides, cementing the mainland’s position as Taiwan’s largest trading partner.

Xinhua and Reuters contributed to this story.