Beijing Must Not Cavalierly Say No to a Ma-Xi Meeting
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 27, 2013
Summary: One may look and see ten thousand mountains standing in one's way. Or
one look and see only a sheet of paper. Ma Ying-jeou must overcome
daunting domestic obstacles. Yet he openly expressed his willingness to
take part in a Ma-Xi meeting at APEC. He must in fact cross ten thousand
mountains. By contrast, Beijing has vastly more resources and enjoys
vastly more favorable conditions. For Beijing, the only barrier it must
penetrate is a sheet of paper. If Ma Ying-jeou says yes, but Beijing
says no, would that be just?
Full text below:
During an interview with Asiaweek President Ma said that he was of course willing to attend next year's APEC meeting in Beijing. He said, "If I can go, I am willing."
This is the first time President Ma has expressed his willingness to attend in such a straightforward manner. In the past, he usually beat around the bush, saying, "We must first create the proper conditions." President Ma added, "But on this point, Beijing has already announced its interest [in meeting with me] at APEC." Interestingly enough, when Asiaweek published the exclusive interview, it apparently omitted Beijing's denial, on purpose. The presidential office however retained the full text in its own announcement.
Asiaweek is a private sector Hong Kong-based media organization. It omitted Beijing's denial. Perhaps it was too aggressive in its attempt to promote such a meeting. Ma Ying-jeou explicitly expressed the desire to attend. The Beijing authorities should consider its decision carefully. They must not lightly reject the possibility.
The coming May and June may determine whether a Ma-Xi meeting at APEC is possible. Beijing's initial response was favorable. Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi said, "The problems that visits by leaders from the two sides pose... [can be resolved by] creating the proper conditions, including appropriate consultation regarding their official status." Later however, Beijing's tone hardened. Spokesman Fan Liqing said, One. A meeting of the leaders from the two sides does not require an international conference as its venue. Two. The Taiwan side's participation in an informal APEC leadership meeting should be handled in accordance with the provisions of the MOU. (i.e., it should be confined to officials responsible for fiscal and economic policy). This may have been what President Ma was referring to when he said Beijing denied making any such offer.
The APEC meeting to be held at Beijing's Huairou Yanqi Lake enables a Ma-Xi meeting. It would make possible a huge advance in cross-Strait relations. APEC is not really an "international conference." It is not a conference between "sovereign states." It is a conference between "economic entities." The two sides already have a "one China framework." President Ma could attend as the "economic leader" of "Chinese Taipei." This would fall entirely within the "one China framework." This conference between "economic entities" is being held in Beijing. Ma Ying-jeou needs to legitimize his presence in Beijing to the public on Taiwan. He can use Beijing's own language, "leaders from both sides of the Strait' to legitimize meeting with Xi in Beijing. Is this not an historic opportunity to improve cross-Strait relations?
Suppose we pass up this golden opportunity? How long will it be before APEC once meets again in Beijing? By then it will no longer be an opportunity for Ma and Xi. Taiwan's political situation may change at any moment. We must use the Ma Xi meeting to reduce obstacles to cross-Strait relations. The political situation on Taiwan is volatile. Cross-Strait relations could swiftly degenerate. Who knows when they could be straightened out?
Ma Ying-jeou has stated publicly that "for his part, he is certainly willing to attend." The APEC meeting inevitably raises the possibility of a Ma-Xi meeting. The ball is now in Beijing's court. As the saying goes, "Reject heaven's blessing, suffer heaven's wrath." We have been presented with a golden opportunity. If Beijing casually allows it to slip between its fingers, will it not be rejecting heaven's blessing and inviting heaven's wrath?
Cross-Strait relations have long alternated between "theory first" and "practice first." The annual APEC meeting in Beijing is a conference of economic entities. Theoretically it falls within the "one China framework." A Ma-Xi meeting at APEC in Beijing would be theory put into practice. It would be a case of theory and practice complementing each other. On the one hand, theory would be given a practical basis. On the other hand, practice would promote advances in theory. What reason do the Beijing authorities have to dither over a Ma-Xi meeting at APEC?
A Beijing think-tank says a Ma-Xi meeting depends on cross-Strait political trust. This was an insightful comment. More precisely, a Ma-Xi meeting at APEC would be a new achievement that would boost cross-Strait political trust. Recent developments such as the cross-Strait diplomatic truce, WHA, ICAO, and Wang Yu-chi and Zhang Zhijun referring to each other by their official titles both reflect and promote cross-Strait trust. A Ma-Xi meeting would advance cross-Strait mutual trust past a point of no return. The two sides can no longer afford the consequences of a rupture in mutual trust. Only a willingness to fling open the doors can raise cross-Strait relations to new heights.
One may look and see ten thousand mountains standing in one's way. Or one look and see only a sheet of paper. Ma Ying-jeou must overcome daunting domestic obstacles. Yet he openly expressed his willingness to take part in a Ma-Xi meeting at APEC. He must in fact cross ten thousand mountains. By contrast, Beijing has vastly more resources and enjoys vastly more favorable conditions. For Beijing, the only barrier it must penetrate is a sheet of paper. If Ma Ying-jeou says yes, but Beijing says no, would that be just?
"Reject heaven's blessings, suffer heaven's wrath." Beijing must not cavalierly say not to a Ma-Xi meeting.
2013.12.27 03:25 am