Policy Alert: China-Taiwan Historic Summit: Reactions from Asian Powers
On Saturday, November 7, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou held the first China-Taiwan summit meeting since the two countries separated in 1949. The two leaders reconfirmed the “1992 Consensus” based on the principle of “One China” and agreed on further improvement of cross-Strait relations. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea on this historic summit.
Chinese officials and media declared the summit a success, expressing hope for continued progress in cross-Strait relations.
- President Xi Jinping cast the China-Taiwan dispute as a family feud in his opening speech. “We are brothers connected by flesh even if our bones are broken, we are a family whose blood is thicker than water,” Xi said. “History has left some bad memories, but the strait cannot prevent relatives and friends from missing each other.”
- “The outcome of the meeting showed that the two sides shared many concerns and have reached consensus on several key issues, for instance, the 1992 Consensus and common commitment to the revival of the Chinese nation,” said Cheng You-ping, head of the political and economic research center of Taipei University in an interview with Xinhua.
- Ling Dequan, a researcher at Xinhua‘s Center for World Affairs Studies, named the Xi-Ma meeting as one of “this year’s top ten news stories,” and urged both sides to “deepen exchanges, boost the well-being of people on the two sides, make joint efforts for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and enable both sides to share the glory of national rejuvenation.”
- The People’s Daily praised Ma for his willingness to have the meeting. It also noted that “The opposition camp in Taiwan has made immediate objections, hoping to control public opinion. But they should be aware that the historic meeting is supported by the whole world, including the US, and they are displaying jiggery-pokery from a small circle. Such extremism is bound to be stigmatized.”
- “The November 7 meeting is truly significant, yet no one should assume that the differences between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits will be solved at one meeting or quickly,” warnedChina Daily writer Chen Weihua.
Taiwanese commentary expressed mixed views on the summit, noting the impact the summit might have on Taiwan’s upcoming elections.
- “The leaders displayed a high level of empathy,” observed Chao Chun-Shan, president of the Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies in Taipei. “Both sides showed sincerity and willingness to focus on common ground and shelve the differences for the moment.”
- News channel Focus Taiwan noted that China Central Television (CCTV) blacked out Ma’s image and voice every time he spoke, drawing strong criticism from many Chinese netizens who blamed CCTV for being “narrow-minded“.
- The independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan accused Ma of trying to revive the chances of the governing Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan’s upcoming elections with the surprise summit. Nonetheless, an opinion poll conducted by Taiwan’s Cross-Strait Policy Association on Sunday showed Taiwan’s opposition presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen retaining a large lead over the KMT candidate Eric Chu, despite the historic summit.
The Japanese government voiced hope that the summit will ensure peace and stability in East Asia.
- “While we expect movements between China and Taiwan such as this (Saturday’s meeting) tocontribute to regional peace and stability, we would like to closely watch developments going forward,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
- Suga dismissed views that the summit may affect Tokyo’s relations with Taipei, emphasizing that “Japan and Taiwan share basic values and are important partners with close economic ties.”
Japanese newspapers expressed concerns about the future of China-Taiwan ties.
- The Yomiuri Shimbun questioned President Ma’s attempt to use the summit to garner public support for the upcoming presidential election in January next year. “An overwhelming majority of Taiwan’s residents want to maintain the status quo, neither unifying with China nor becoming independent. The summit this time will not necessarily benefit the Kuomintang (KMT) in the presidential electoral campaign. On the contrary, the Xi-Ma meeting may backfire.”
- The Mainichi Shimbun warned that given the popular opposition against unification in Taiwan, any attempt by either side to hasten unification will “destabilize” the bilateral relations, and that both sides must focus on a stable relationship in the long term, not an electoral concern in the short term.
- “The question is what happens after President Ma retires,” stressed the Nikkei Shimbun. As the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen, who criticizes President Ma’s rapprochement vis-à-vis China, is expected to win the next presidential election, the cross-Strait relations will depend on how Beijing will react to the election result.
- “Beijing should be willing to hold sincere dialogue with any leader of Taiwan who has been chosen through a fair election, whether the leader belongs to the KMT or the DPP,” argued theAsahi Shimbun. “The Xi administration cannot hope to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people if it refuses to hold talks with opponents to its Taiwan policy.”
- The Sankei Shimbun criticized the summit as China’s attempt to undermine U.S. influence and pro-independence voices in Taiwan, arguing that Beijing must first pledge not to use force over the cross-strait relations before speaking of unification.
Korean media discussed the summit’s implications for cross-Strait relations as well as inter-Korean relations.
- The Korea Times posited that China’s motive behind the summit was “to reinforce its one-China policy by regarding Taipei as a renegade province.” “Xi met Ma in order to stymie the independent-minded opposition Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate in January’s presidential election.”
- The newspaper warned that the Beijing’s rapprochement vis-à-vis Taipei “may significantly affect the current regional order.” “Above all, if Xi goes on with a charm offensive to woo Taiwanese across the straits, for example, over an international standoff over the South China Sea, it would deal a blow to the U.S.-Japan effort to contain Beijing’s influence in general.”
- Lim Dong-won, former Unification Minister and a key architect of South Korea’s Sunshine Policy toward North Korea, drew an analogy between that policy and China’s economic engagement with Taiwan. “Cross-Strait relations have made some amazing progress over the past few years thanks to a pragmatic approach of separating government and economic issues and putting the economy first in the name of ‘respecting differences while striving for common goals.'”
- The Dong-A Ilbo contrasted the progress in the cross-strait relations and the lack thereof in the inter-Korean relations. “We envy cross-Strait relations, considering that only about 500 separated families met for only three days last month” while more than ten million people are expected to travel across the strait this year.