Taiwan and China
How Much Does the China-Taiwan Summit Matter?

Ahead of elections that are predicted to oust the pro-Chinese Kuomintang government in Taiwan, the current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who steps down next year due to term limits, announced that he will be meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday, the first time leaders from the two countries will meet since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Reuters has the details:

The meeting in Singapore coincides with rising anti-China sentiment in Taiwan ahead of the presidential and parliamentary polls in January which the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) is likely to lose to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which traditionally favors independence from China.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who steps down next year due to term limits, has made improving economic links with China a key policy since he took office in 2008. He has signed landmark business and tourism deals, though there has been no progress in resolving their political differences.

President Ma’s office insisted that the meeting not include any joint statements, and that no agreements be signed. Nevertheless, members from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party cried foul at the move, claiming its timing was suspect. “I believe people across the country, like me, felt very surprised…to let the people know in such a hasty and chaotic manner is damaging to Taiwan’s democracy”, DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen said.

We don’t know what China is thinking, but we wonder if it’s hoping to extend to Taiwan the friendlier attitude it has shown to Japan and South Korea. On Taiwan’s part, this looks like a clever political ploy by the ruling party to change the fundamental dynamic of Taiwan’s defining relationship at the last minute and upend the elections. We also wonder whether Taiwan’s decision to endorse, albeit in its capacity as the “true” government of China, the nine-dash line last May was part of the package.

But no matter what’s going on, the meeting between Ma and and Xi matters far less than what happens after the upcoming elections take place. We’ll be watching.

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