Taiwan talks 'a milestone'

Updated: 2015-11-05 07:49

By Peng Yining(China Daily USA)

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Xi and Ma scheduled to meet on Saturday to exchange views on peaceful development

The scheduled meeting between leaders of both sides of the Taiwan Straits, Xi Jinping and Ma Yingjeou, will be "a milestone in nearly seven decades of cross-Straits relations", the mainland's Taiwan affairs chief said on Wednesday.

Xi, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, will meet with Taiwan leader Maon Saturday in Singapore during his two-day visit to the country, according to Zhang Zhijun, head of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

The two leaders will exchange views on promoting peaceful development of cross-Straits relations, and they will discuss major issues on deepening cross-Straits cooperation in various areas and improving people's welfare, Zhang said.

As the first such meeting since 1949, the momentous event will be a start of direct dialogues between top leaders on both sides, he said.

Xi and Ma will address each other as "mister" and have dinner after the meeting. Zhang said the manner of address was agreed upon by both sides, and that a decision was made based on the fact that the political divergence across the Straits hasn't been fully solved. The manner of address also embodies the spirit of mutual respect and suspending of the dispute, Zhang added.

The political situation in Taiwan has been experiencing slight turbulence recently, as the island's ruling Kuomintang Party replaced deputy legislative speaker Hung Hsiuchu in October with KMT Chairman Eric Chu for the island's leadership election, which is scheduled for Jan 16.

Chu will face a tough battle with Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

"The cross-Straits relations have reached a turning point, and both sides are facing the question of which way to go," said Zhang.

"It was not easy for both sides to make the meeting happen," he said. "It is hard to imagine that two leaders would sit face to face if relations were strained. The meeting is a result of peaceful development of cross-Straits relations."

Zhang said the leaders' meeting was decided on during his meeting with Andrew Hsia, his counterpart from Taiwan, in October in Guangzhou.

That was the fourth meeting between top cross-Straits affairs officials from both sides since last year. In May, Zhang and Hsia had a formal meeting on Kinmen, a Taiwan islet just a couple of kilometers off the coast of Fujian province.

"The meeting between Xi and Ma is the result of the concerted efforts of both sides and all compatriots, benefiting from cumulative results achieved in the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations," Zhang said. The mainland has always taken "a proactive and open attitude" toward holding a cross-Straits leaders' meeting, Zhang said.

"This time, two leaders can talk face-to-face for the first time and make a statement of their positions on cross-Straits relations. Actually, the meeting itself is a statement," said Zhu Songling, a political science professor at the Institute of Taiwan Studies at Beijing Union University.


Taiwan talks 'a milestone'