Taiwan-China leaders to meet for first time since 1949
November 3, 2015 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Taiwan's president Ma Ying-jeou and China's president Xi Jinping will meet in Singapore on Saturday---the first meeting between leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait since 1949, when Mao forced the Nationalist regime off mainland China and into retreat into Taiwan. The Singapore meeting set for Saturday has been planned behind the scene for a year. Already, opposition parties in Taiwan are crying foul, calling for the impeachment of Ma and accusing him of going against mainstream public opinion to meet with Xi.
posted by wallawallasweet (15 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just hope they don't argue over the China.

Ma seems to be a dynamic leader and has eased certain restrictions concerning travel and the economy.

This is quite historic.
posted by clavdivs at 8:29 PM on November 3, 2015


Note that the opposition parties listed as crying foul in the OP does not include the major opposition party - the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) - whose candidate is likely to take the Taiwan presidency in the January 2016 election. The DPP has, however, questioned the timing of the meeting so close to the presidential and legislative elections next year. The Premier and the Secretary-General of the president's office have been asked to the Legislative Yuan (parliament) for later today to explain how this all came about.

The Kuomintang (KMT), which is the party of President Ma, is facing some serious issues in the presidential election - to such an extent that they ended up having to replace their candidate (due to her polling so poorly) just a little over two weeks ago. To the general Taiwan public, which is already leery of the KMT's close relationship with China and the trajectory of the cross-Strait relationship, this meeting is probably not going to be seen as positive. The KMT replaced their candidate primarily in an attempt to hold on to their legislative majority - not sure that this is helping that goal.

Historic, yes. Although the KMT and the Ma government has been having regular cross-Strait exchanges since 2008, at the party level. To me this seems more like a power move by Ma to cement his legacy, potentially to the detriment of his party. The fact that Ma has explicitly promised to not sign any new agreements or make any joint statements with Xi probably reflects a concession of sorts to his party.

(Aside: the FB post is by the generally pro-KMT China Post, and the "impeach Ma" thing isn't reported anywhere else in the English-language Taiwan media at the moment, as far as I can tell.)
posted by gemmy at 8:48 PM on November 3, 2015 [21 favorites]


Ironically both claim to be the only legitimate (unelected) government of China (Taiwan and the mainland), but obviously since 1947 the communist's unelected government has held sway while Taiwan's leaders have had to submit to the humiliation of elections in one small part of China. It's an odd situation indeed and tea could produce some awkward moments.
posted by three blind mice at 9:26 PM on November 3, 2015


A few years back I went through the process and was a finalist for a public liaison position in the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, or TECRO (a.k.a. what Taiwan has in Washington, DC because they can't technically have an embassy, but essentially the U.S. Taiwanese embassy.)

The higher-ups I met there were in the interesting position of being extremely qualified for their jobs, very understanding of diplomacy and Taipei-U.S. relations (which are quite important to both parties, although more so to Taiwan, for obvious reasons) but very much having the job of toeing the official line while recognizing how the U.S. views that line. I'm still kind of sad I didn't make the final cut. That point of view was very educational.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:10 PM on November 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


To me this seems more like a power move by Ma to cement his legacy, potentially to the detriment of his party.

That's exactly what I thought; the timing is appalling for the election and the KMT's already dismal prospects.
posted by smoke at 11:37 PM on November 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ironically both claim to be the only legitimate (unelected) government of China (Taiwan and the mainland), but obviously since 1947 the communist's unelected government has held sway while Taiwan's leaders have had to submit to the humiliation of elections in one small part of China. It's an odd situation indeed and tea could produce some awkward moments.

This is... kind of a fundamental misunderstanding of the politics of the region, and of the Chinese psyche. Both the leadership of China and Taiwan understand perfectly the reality of their respective roles. Their public postures are just as designed as any Western government's, meant to play to the needs of their populations. This may be the first formal meeting, but it's come after years of normalization as policy. I don't think we'll see any "awkward moments". This meeting is a planned performance, with some pretty complex (and not necessarily aligned) motivations.
posted by danny the boy at 11:51 PM on November 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


I hope Ma asks Xi how many missiles are pointed at Taiwan.

I have lived here in Taiwan for almost 30 years and I see this meeting as the death knell for the KMT. By and large the Taiwanese want Taiwan to be an independent country. We'll see what happens. Xi, by the way, is a snake in the grass.
posted by rmmcclay at 12:27 AM on November 4, 2015


I hope Ma asks Xi how many missiles are pointed at Taiwan.

Whilst I entirely agree that Taiwan is the more threatened party, I must note in fairness that Taiwan is reputed to have a plan to breach the Three Gorges dam in extremis. There's threats to both sides from an all out war.
posted by jaduncan at 1:02 AM on November 4, 2015


Ironically both claim to be the only legitimate (unelected) government of China (Taiwan and the mainland), but obviously since 1947 the communist's unelected government has held sway while Taiwan's leaders have had to submit to the humiliation of elections in one small part of China. It's an odd situation indeed and tea could produce some awkward moments.

Why does this comment begin with the word "Ironically"?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:34 AM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I must note in fairness that Taiwan is reputed to have a plan to breach the Three Gorges dam in extremis.

I've heard of that too. And then there's the actual crazy Cold War stuff the KMT has done, usually during the Chiang Kai Shek period: Having a remnant KMT army run opium in SE Asia, kidnapping Chinese fisherman across the Strait to collect intelligence, and Chiang volunteering ROC forces to fight in Vietnam (which the US declined, because the possibility of China officially jumping in). A lot of what he did makes sense in a Chiang sort of way, because Chiang had always intended to retake Mainland China. That's why to this day, ROC conscription still has a focus on land forces, even though it's an island that's better defended with a proper air force and a decent navy.

The ROC/Taiwan also went as far as having a secret nuclear weapons program that got shut down in late 80s, because someone in the chain of command leaked it to the US, which then told Taiwan to cut it out.
posted by FJT at 9:12 AM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's why to this day, ROC conscription still has a focus on land forces, even though it's an island that's better defended with a proper air force and a decent navy.

Taiwan has been trying to get rid of conscription and transition to an all volunteer army since 2008. That is, the leadership has. There has been some pushback by the population. Conscription was supposed to end by 2014 but has been in limbo, and would now happen by then end of 2016 under current proposals.
posted by danny the boy at 10:04 AM on November 4, 2015


Ironically both claim to be the only legitimate (unelected) government of China (Taiwan and the mainland), but obviously since 1947 the communist's unelected government has held sway while Taiwan's leaders have had to submit to the humiliation of elections in one small part of China. It's an odd situation indeed and tea could produce some awkward moments.

Err, what?

since 1947
First off, the PRC was founded in 1949, not 1947.

Ironically both claim to be the only legitimate (unelected) government of China
Yes, both governments theoretically claim the entire territory of China, mainland and Taiwan. On the mainland, the PRC vociferously supports this claim and has explicitly not ruled out the use of force to take back Taiwan if necessary. The situation in Taiwan is significantly different and depends on your political leanings. No ROC government has formally renounced a claim over mainland China because this would be tantamount to declaring Taiwanese independence, and thus inviting war. However, there's pretty widespread recognition in Taiwan that in no realistic scenario whatsoever is the ROC government going to "retake the mainland" (whereas in the PRC the idea of the PRC asserting control over both the mainland and Taiwan is a very real possibility/option).

Taiwan's leaders have had to submit to the humiliation of elections in one small part of China
I don't even know where to begin with this. Taiwan is the only fully free democracy in the Chinese-speaking world -- Singapore is probably the next best option, but since independence has never seen a transition of power between political parties, not to mention a significantly more authoritarian style of government. Taiwan's elections garner envy among many mainland citizens and any "humiliation" is pretty much in the imagination.

tea could produce some awkward moments
I defer to danny the boy's excellent explanation of this!
posted by andrewesque at 10:36 AM on November 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Taiwan wants the economic boost, but the only thing it has to offer is a piece of its democratic sovereignty. Unless they've found a way to make democracy itself exportable, I don't see how this could end in a fair exchange.
posted by polymodus at 1:27 PM on November 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not sure why all the media outlets are saying it's the first time they've met since 1949. Technically, the leaders of "China" and "Taiwan" have never met at all. The last time the leaders of the CCP and KMT met was in 1945, before the CCP could be said to represent "China" and before the KMT fully established control over Taiwan after the Japanese surrender. I hate this sort of glossing over the details in news reporting.
posted by hyperbolic at 2:13 PM on November 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hate this sort of glossing over the details in news reporting.

Agreed. Yet it's just a fact of life when it comes to Taiwan; the cross-Strait relationship is so complicated that it's difficult for most media outlets to get all the nuances right in a story, even if they try really hard. I usually start reading any article on Taiwan by seeking out the background "formula" they are using, which normally goes something like "Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of a civil war" and then adds some additional details. It's almost always woefully inadequate, but of course it's hard to explain 60+ years of complex politics in three sentences... Some media outlets certainly do it better than others, though, and it can be a useful metric to gauge the writer's depth of knowledge on Taiwan issues.

What I really wanted to post, though, was that I thought this editorial offered some good analysis of the Ma/Xi meeting.
posted by gemmy at 4:30 PM on November 4, 2015


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