People’s Daily Interviews EWI’s Piin-Fen Kok on Xi-Ma Meeting

Media Coverage | November 18, 2015

News of the upcoming meeting of China and Taiwan’s top leaders in Singapore has attracted significant attention from all over the world. It has been a hotly discussed topic for the past two days. While reacting positively to the news, overseas experts have also expressed their own ideas about the future of cross-Strait relations.

Ms. Piin-Fen Kok, director of the China, East Asia and United States Program at the EastWest Institute, indicates that this meeting has great historical significance as the first direct contact between the highest leaders of both sides of the Strait since 1949. For Mr. Ma Ying-jeou, his achievements in cross-Strait affairs can be secured during the last few months of his presidency; to Mr. Xi Jinping, he can use this opportunity to convey the following message to Taiwan: the 1992 Consensus and close and peaceful cross-Strait ties will benefit the people of Taiwan, and Taiwan independence will have disastrous consequences. Ms. Kok thinks that the meeting could also affect Taiwan’s 2016 elections, depending on what is said and done at the meeting, and how all parties in Taiwan interpret what was addressed at the meeting.

According to Ms. Kok, cross-Strait relations will still face various challenges in the future, such as the very possible rotation of ruling parties with a victory by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). To persuade the mainland to trust Tsai Ing-wen’s policy of “maintaining status quo,” the DPP has much work to do. Additionally, possible U.S. arms sales to Taiwan would also have an impact on cross-strait and China-U.S. relations, which will be a challenge to leaders on both sides. 

Mr. Wang Hanwan, a consultant to the Kuomintang on central party affairs who lives in New York, said that this is a historically significant event. After 66 years of separate rule, the first handshake of the leaders from the two sides has immense political value, which also indicates that cross-Strait exchanges should be raised to the political level. He hopes that this meeting will further benefit cross-Strait stability and peace. 

Mr. Zhang Xuehai, member of the Kuomintang’s central review committee, commented that the fact that the two leaders can break through old mentalities and hold a historic meeting after being separated for 66 years is good news for all Chinese people. Although the meeting is short, it can set the tone for the future of cross-Strait relations. It has great historical significance. He thinks that this meeting will further strengthen the role of the 1992 Consensus in cross-Strait relations and will also possibly benefit the Kuomintang’s election situation. Certainly, there will be opposing voices in Taiwan, but if the meeting of the two leaders can bring stability and peace to China and Taiwan, whoever still objects to it will be swimming against the tide. 

Mr. Hua Junxiong, former president of the Association of China’s Peaceful Unification in New York, said that the final realization of the “Xi-Ma Meeting” after several attempts is a pragmatic step at this historic moment in cross-Strait relations. It will benefit the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties. This meeting is also an affirmation of Mr. Ma’s persistence in the 1992 Consensus. It is possible that the DPP will come into power in 2016, and if the 1992 Consensus is not persisted, cross-Strait relations will face unexpected turns. After the news about this meeting broke out, the stock market in Taiwan rallied and people benefited, so even if the DPP comes into power, the achievement of this meeting cannot be easily denied.

This article was translated by former EWI intern Qiyang Niu. The article was originally published in People's Daily on November 7.

To view the article on People's Daily, click here. (Chinese)