United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 5, 2015
Executive Summary: Two years ago, the idea of a "Wang Zhang summit" was floated for the first time. Many felt it would be tough to implement. After a three year delay, the Ma Xi summit will finally take place. Clearly wishing was not enough. Bold action was required to succeed. This Saturday, the Ma Xi summit will convene. Tsai Ing-wen's proudly trumpeted "maintaining the status quo" will promptly be rendered obsolete.
Full Text Below:
Last year hopes for a Ma Xi summit at the APEC conference at Yanqi Lake in Beijing were dashed. Now, unexpectedly, the summit will take place in Singapore, the birthplace of the 1992 Consensus. The summit conveys strong suggestions of political continuity. President Ma's term is drawing to a close. Xi Jinping is implementing a global strategy. Leaders from the two sides are meeting for the first time after being separated for 66 years. The summit ushers in a new era of peace. It is also attracting international attention.
The Ma Xi summit, from initiative to realization, endured nearly three years of twists and turns. It failed to materialize before because both parties were too obstinate and lacked the necessary vision. First, consider the subjective factors. The Taiwan Affairs Office now appears willing to engage in cross-Strait negotiations. But it was slow to take action. As a result, the Ma Xi summit, rife with political significance, remained stalled. The Mainland side misjudged the situation and hobbled itself. Meanwhile, the Ma administration was bound hand and foot by internal constraints. The administration was overwhelmed. This made Beijing hesitant to commit to a meeting. The opportunity was lost.
Secondly, consider the objective factors. The two parties listed preconditions for a Ma Xi summit, including format, location, name, and other technical matters. These presented unnecessary obstacles. For example, our side insisted that the Beijing APEC was ideal for a Ma Xi summit. Xi Jinping would enjoy a home court advantage, and President Ma would attend in his capacity as an "economic leader". But APEC is an international conference. Therefore Beijing had concerns. If heads of state from Taipei and Beijing met in such a venue, Beijing would have trouble spinning its significance, both internally and externally. Therefore it insisted on convening the summit in a "third locale". The two sides missed an opportunity for a summit in Beijing during APEC. Cross-Strait relations subsequently encountered headwinds.
The Ma Xi summit will be held in Singapore, a “third locale where Beijing and Singapore established diplomatic relations 25 years ago. It is also where Taiwan and the Mainland, motivated by a shared sense of crisis, are thinking and acting anew.
Now consider how the situation has changed. The KMT was routed in the nine in one elections. It faces another rout in the 2016 general election. Tsai Ing-wen's election prospects appear bright. This increases Beijing's concerns about the future of cross-Strait relations. In the event they deteriorate, a return to today's peace will be impossible. Beijing therefore feels it must affirm the Ma administration's efforts to improve cross-Strait relations, and the two sides' efforts on behalf of peace. Only then can it prevent cross-Strait relations from deteriorating beyond repair. This constitutes a new course in cross-Strait relations. Had the two sides held a Ma Xi summit last year, the KMT would not be in its current pickle.
This new course allows the two sides to convene a Ma Xi summit, one that embodies new thinking and breaks new ground. The annual APEC meeting will be held in Manila this November. But the conflict in the South China Sea scotched any plans by Xi Jinping to visit the Philippines. Instead, Singapore has invited Xi Jinping to Singapore to celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Beijing. This in turn paved the way for a Ma Xi summit. The two parties are unwilling to forgo the opportunity for a summit while Ma is still in office.
Cross-Strait relations over the next four to eight years could be filled with twists and turns. A summit might never materialize. As a result, differences over venue, timing, and content, are now regarded as secondary in importance and have been shelved. Time and tide have compelled both sides to overcome past obstacles.
The Ma Xi summit in Singapore is a good choice, for both sides. Singapore was the venue for the Koo-Wang talks and the birthplace of the 1992 Consensus. Leaders from the two sides will now meet there to update the 1992 Consensus. Lee Kuan Yew and his son Lee Hsien Loong have a history of facilitating cross-Strait reconciliation. As hosts they have the two sides' trust, and are able to make appropriate and equitable arrangements, . The next question is what the Ma Xi summit will offer as far as content. Members of the public on both sides feel they have already benefitted. The mere fact that their leaders are meeting implies that cross-Strait peace will endure. If so, international applause is a forgone conclusion.
The DPP reacted vehemently to the Ma Xi summit yesterday. It issued five statements. It raised seven objections. It basted the timing, the status of the two parties, and the negotiation process. It said Ma must not undermine the dignity of the nation. In fact, every move of the Ma Xi summit will be carried out under global scrutiny. The Executive Yuan will be required to report to the Legislative Yuan. How can Ma possibly do anything contrary to the national interest? Furthermore, the Ma Xi summit will set a precedent. Even if the ruling party on Taiwan changes, leaders from the two sides will still be able to meet this way. This is surely easier than the DPP's promotion of high-level consultations, is it not?
Two years ago, the idea of a "Wang Zhang summit" was floated for the first time. Many felt it would be tough to implement. After a three year delay, the Ma Xi summit will finally take place. Clearly wishing was not enough. Bold action was required to succeed. This Saturday, the Ma Xi summit will convene. Tsai Ing-wen's proudly trumpeted "maintaining the status quo" will promptly be rendered obsolete.