This weekend Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou will sit down face to face in an historic event that will mark the first meeting between leaders of the two nations since Taiwan gained independence from China in 1949.
The meeting, which will take place in Singapore, comes on the heels of rising anti-China sentiment in Taiwan and in advance of that country’s early 2016 elections in which the ruling Chinese nationalist Kuomintang Party (KMT) is certain to lose.
Ma Ying-jeou has made improving relations with China, especially in economic matters, a centerpiece of his presidency since 2008. He steps down in 2016 due to term limits.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the KMT’s opposition in the upcoming election, expressed dismay at the sudden, rushed announcement of the meeting.
Tsai Ing-wen, presidential candidate for Taiwan’s main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which traditionally favours independence, said the manner of the announcement damaged democracy.
“I believe people across the country, like me, felt very surprised,” she said in prepared remarks to reporters.
“A meeting of the leaders of the two sides across the strait is a great event, involving the dignity and national interests of Taiwan. But to let the people know in such a hasty and chaotic manner is damaging to Taiwan’s democracy.”
DPP spokesman Cheng Yun-peng said the timing of the meeting was suspect. “How can people not think of this as a political operation intended to affect the election?” he said.
Some experts think that China is using the meeting to influence Taiwan’s election, potentially pointing out the fact that the Communist Chinese will work with the KMT to achieve their objectives. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province that should be reunified with the mainland nation.
Both sides have agreed that unification is not on the table for the meeting, but the parties plan on talking about issues that will improve relations between the two countries.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / e X p o s e