Debate lingers over impact of meeting

Updated: 2015-11-09 07:03


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Debate lingers over impact of meeting

Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou shook hands on Saturday afternoon in Singapore in the first meeting between leaders of the two sides of the Taiwan Straits since 1949, opening up a historic page in cross-Straits relations. [Photo/Agencies]

The curtain fell on the landmark meeting between Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore on Saturday.

But on Sunday people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits and media organizations were still discussing the impact.

A handshake between Xi and Ma that lasted more than one minute featured on front pages and in headlines, triggering debate among scholars, with the majority of them hailing the meeting as a success.

Ei Sun Oh, a senior researcher at Singapore Nanyang Technological University, said: "The meeting itself was a big achievement. It will lay a solid foundation for the future peaceful development of cross-Straits relations. We expect second and third steps of a similar nature in the future."

Li Jiaquan, a senior Taiwan affairs expert and former director of the Institute of Taiwan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, "The meeting between Xi and Ma will have a huge influence on changing the political atmosphere in Taiwan and will play an important role in stabilizing cross-Straits peaceful development."

Columbia University China expert Andrew Nathan wrote on China File, the Asia Society's micro blog, "Ma wants to drive home the point that cooperation with the mainland is possible and that this is better for Taiwan's residents than the alternative."

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University said: "Beijing's desire is to emphasize interdependence between Taiwan and the mainland, not to reduce it. So it is in Beijing's interest to maintain as many channels of communication as possible."

J. Michael Cole, a fellow of the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute, said of the meeting, "It's historic, because it's the first, but I would not go as far as to say that it was very important, because it engaged in generalities. No specific issues were addressed, no promises were made that we know of."

To witness the historic occasion, Harrison Wang, a 57-year-old businessman from Taiwan, booked a room at Singapore's Shangri-La hotel, where the meeting took place.

"I just wanted to wave to Mr Xi and Mr Ma and tell them they have done a good job to bring both sides closer," Wang said.

Wang, who was born in Taiwan but moved to Singapore 16 years ago, said his family came originally from Jiangsu province.

"I visited Jiangsu for the first time in the 1990s, although I have never lived on the mainland. But the food, language and everything are so familiar to me," he said.

"I believe this meeting heralds a bright future for both sides."

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