Tuesday, 3 November 2015

GOOD NEWS FOR A CHANGE
Why the people (of the world) love Xi Jinping







BEIJING — President Xi Jinping of China, and the leader of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, will meet on Saturday in Singapore, the first such meeting since before the Chinese Communist revolution of 1949 and the retreat of the Chinese nationalists across the Taiwan Strait.
The office in charge of Taiwan relations in Beijing said in a brief statement that the two leaders would exchange views on promoting development during a long scheduled two-day visit of Mr. Xi to Singapore, a country that has good relations with both sides.
The director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, Zhang Zhijun, said the meeting had been arranged “given the situation of the irresolution of cross-strait political differences.”
A spokesman for Mr. Ma, whose Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, is floundering at the polls before elections early next year, announced the meeting late Tuesday night. Mr. Ma’s spokesman, Charles Chen, said that no agreements were envisioned. The meeting with Mr. Ma fits with the bold style of Mr. Xi, who has shown that he likes to take more risks in foreign policy than his predecessors.
He has sought strong connections with Britain and the Continent as a counterweight to the United States, and met withMyanmar’s opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, even though China has traditionally supported the military in Myanmar. Mr. Xi will be arriving in Singapore from a visit to Vietnam, a country ruled by a Communist Party but that has had testy relations with China.
The encounter with Mr. Ma comes after Mr. Xi has pushed China’s regional aspirations to the fore by building artificial islands in the South China Sea and, soon after becoming president, taking a strong anti-Japan stance. The gesture toward Mr. Ma shows a more conciliatory side, one that may not help to pull off a victory for the Kuomintang, which favors closer ties to China, but nonetheless, could be interpreted as not particularly threatening.
The gesture could also produce a backlash, prompting more Taiwanese voters to support the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which has held a commanding lead in the polls over the past year. Yet even if the Kuomintang does not win the January elections, the meeting could set the groundwork for changes that suit China in the long run, according to Wang Yangjin, a professor of political science at Renmin University of China in Beijing, who specializes in Taiwan-China relations.
“There are very good economic relations between China and Taiwan, but we cannot expect any breakthrough on politics,” said Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University. “If they had met two years ago it would have been quite important politically, but now I don’t think this can produce any substantial political impact.”
Despite the improved ties in recent years, the Chinese government continues to adhere to its long-held policy that Taiwan is a breakaway province and that unification is inevitable — by force if necessary.
Chiang Kai-shek, the Kuomintang leader, and the Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong met in Chongqing, China’s wartime capital, in August 1945.
While lower level representatives of the two sides continued to meet during the civil war, Mao and Chiang never met again, said Xu Guoqi, a professor of history at the University of Hong Kong.
Once established on Taiwan, an island that had been under Japanese control until 1945, the Kuominting, still under Chiang, maintained itself as the Republic of China and vowed to reconquer the mainland, but its policies toward Beijing have evolved considerably since then. (In 1979, the United States established full diplomatic relations with Beijing, and now only maintains unofficial relations with Taipei.)
Last year, representatives of Taiwan and China met officially for the first time since the revolution. The meeting, held in the Chinese city of Nanjing, produced no major breakthroughs but was seen as the result of Mr. Ma’s efforts to forge closer ties.
Trade has more than doubled over Mr. Ma’s presidency, and Taiwan eased restrictions on Chinaese travelers, who have visited the island in large numbers.
On Tuesday evening, the White House welcomed word of the meeting but reserved judgment on its broader meaning.
“We would certainly welcome steps that are taken on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to try to reduce tensions and improve cross-strait relations,” said the White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “We’ll have to see what actually comes out of the meeting.”
Many in Taiwan remain wary of China’s ultimate intentions. Student protesters took over Taiwan’s legislature for nearly a month last year to force reconsideration of a trade in services agreement with China. In local elections last year, the Kuomintang suffered sharp losses, partly over the party’s China policy.
Leaders in Beijing have been cautious about meeting Taiwan officials out of fear of legitimizing the island’s government, which for more than half a century they had sought to isolate.
Some analysts said that although the Kuomintang was doing badly in opinion polls there was an overall sentiment in Taiwan for the status quo with the mainland, and that Mr. Xi could tap into that by showing through the meeting that huge Taiwanese investments in mainland China had helped Taiwan prosper.
A meeting between Mr. Xi and Mr. Ma, who cannot run for re-election because in Taiwan presidents can serve only two terms, was discussed as a possibility during the summit of Asian and Pacific leaders in Beijing last November, but Mr. Ma’s request for such an encounter was turned down by the Chinese, a senior Asian diplomat said, requesting anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
“Mr. Xi must be looking to do Mr. Ma a favor, he has been asking for this for a long time,” the diplomat said.
Even though it may be difficult to see how the halo of Mr. Xi would affect the Kuomintang, especially given fears of mainland China, the diplomat added, there was still a strong undercurrent of not wanting to return to anything approaching Cold War hostility.
 “The Xi meeting may show that the Kuomintang is better able to deal with China than the D.P.P. I don’t think anyone in Taiwan wants to rock the boat with China,” the diplomat said.
“There certainly is the potential that this meeting could shake the election up,” Nathan Batto, a political scientist at Academia Sinica in Taiwan, wrote in a blog on Wednesday. Yet to make a real difference, he added, “I think something more than a simple handshake would be necessary.”
“Many people will be very uneasy at the prospect of an unpopular lame duck president trying to fundamentally change the status quo in the last few months of his presidency.”
Correction: November 3, 2015 
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the timing of a White House statement on the meeting between Mr. Xi and Mr. Ma. It was on Tuesday, not Wednesday.
Jane Perlez reported from Beijing, and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong. Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.





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