Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Saturday Singapore Watching

All eyes will be on Singapore when the two Chinese leaders meet here
There was a lot of buzz last night Hong Kong time when it was announced that an historic meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou -- the first of its kind since 1949 -- would take place this Saturday in Singapore.

The Taiwanese side claims they were the ones to initiate the meeting, and clarified that the United States was not involved at all.

Xi and Ma's meeting will be first high-level talks since 1949
It's interesting this unprecedented meeting takes before Taiwanese elections in January 2016, when Ma is expected to step down. His party, the Kuomintang are doing badly in the opinion polls, as many Taiwanese are frustrated and tired of the KMT cosying up so much to the mainland.

Taiwan is flooded with mainland Chinese visitors and many frictions erupt, very similar to the ones in Hong Kong, though because the Taiwanese have a Japanese-style temperament, they try to be polite and hold in their disdain...

Ma's office has already stated that the purpose of his trip is to "consolidate cross-strait peace and maintain the status quo", and that he would not sign any agreements, nor issue any joint statements with China during the trip.

It's interesting Singapore was chosen, but it's a relatively neutral site compared to say Hong Kong.

The mainland has a good relationship with the Lion City, while the city state also has a close informal relationship with Taiwan and the two signed a free trade pact in 2013.

This is a politically sensitive time for Ma's party in Taiwan
Both sides will be watching very closely for body language clues and of course which words are chosen in statements.

It's not going to resolve everything, but it's an intriguing first step forward to see how the leaders like or dislike each other, what they talk about and how this gets the ball rolling on future talks.

However if Taiwan elects the Democratic Progressive Party or DPP back into power, which is all for pro-independence, will that derail chances of future talks?

The cross-straits relationship is such a fascinating thing to watch!

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