After the “9-in-1 elections” in 2014, the anti-clothing trade movement, and in the face of a huge possibility that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chief Tsai Ing-wen would win the 2016 election, the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou was actually a reinforcement of the “1992 consensus” and a “hint” for Tsai Ing-wen to uphold the one-China policy, according to Li Qihong, an expert on the history of cross-Strait relations at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.
The Xi-Ma meeting held in the afternoon of Saturday would have more “symbolic significance” than “practical meaning” as the leaders of the two sides had promised neither to sign any agreements nor make any joint announcement, Li said. Media and the public would have little to judge from Saturday’s Xi-Ma meeting but only some details, such as the “handshake”, “smiles on their faces”, and the “distance between their shoulders when they pose for photo.”
“Before the Xi-Ma meeting, there were already some new signals in the relationship between the two sides,” Li noted. In summer this year, Zhang Zhijun, head of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, and Andrew Hsia, Taiwan's mainland affairs chief, met twice, and also made a joint announcement on further promotion of the value of the “1992-concensus” in May, when Tsai Ing-wen was on a visit to the United States.
The DPP would never admit KMT’s “1992 consensus” as it would imply its “surrender” to Beijing and KMT, Li remarked. But the new “constitution” proposed by former DPP leader Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, despite being opposed by members of DPP, was actually an “acquiescence” to the one-China policy.
Li, who once interviewed Hsieh in 2013, said Hsieh organized a forum on cross-Strait relations with a semi-governmental organization in China during which he had reiterated the profound meaning of the new “constitution” in a hope that the Chinese top leaders could “understand its meaning”.
In response to a question by the Sino-US.com whether Beijing understood the “hint” by the DPP, Li said, quoting Hsieh, “One ‘half-governmental scholar’ once said ‘I totally understand what you mean. We will neither openly agree not disagree. The attitude of the mainland is acquiescence.’” “The forum was held in Hong Kong in the name of some foundation, and Hsieh got along well with Chines official scholars.”
Li, who is also a research fellow with the Longus Institute for Development and Strategy, said that the name “Republic of China (ROC)” which Taiwan has long used was also an issue the two sides could not ignore in solving the cross-Strait issues.
Li added that as long as the DPP would uphold the one-China policy, Beijing should not “mind too much about who the next leader of Taiwan would be.”
After the Xi-Ma meeting, the mainland should consider a new conversation with the DPP, by involving the values of the new “constitution” and the “1992-consensus”, Li noted.
The Xi-Ma meeting will also shift international attention to the recent Sino-US conflicts in the South China Sea region to some extent, Li said.
Recently, Beijing dismissed a ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal based in The Hague that it had jurisdiction and admissibility of the South China Sea case. The “soft” support from Beijing to Taiwan, Li said, showed mainland’s willingness to jointly safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime interests.
(This article is translated and edited by Chunmei.)