By Joe Hung
Some 120 academics and experts on both sides of the Taiwan Strait met for two days in Shanghai on Oct. 11 and 12. They exchanged views on relations between Taiwan and China at the first Cross-Strait Peace Forum, organized by China’s National Society of Taiwan Studies and Taiwan’s 21st Century Foundation along with 12 other think tanks. They reached the conclusion that the two sides should create conditions for meetings between their top leaders. They also decided to set up a study group to find out how, where and when President Ma Ying-jeou and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping can meet as well as what they shall talk about. The group will have to report the results of the study at the second Peace Forum, which is scheduled to be held in Taiwan next year.
It represented the climax of efforts by Ma, who doubles as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang, to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi, who was inaugurated as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party last year, and sign a peace accord formally ending the long civil war that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek lost in 1949 which enabled Mao Zedong to proclaim the People’s Republic of China. The efforts continued as Lien Chan and Wu Po-hsiung, both honorary Kuomintang chairmen, met Xi in Beijing and former Vice President Vincent Siew held talks with him on Oct. 6 on the sidelines of the APEC informal summit at Bali, Indonesia. Xi urged the beginning of political dialogue as soon as possible, and assured that Zhang Zhijun, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, will meet Wang Yu-chi, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, to begin arrangements for a dialogue. Hopes were buoyed with Beijing set to host the next APEC summit in 2014, which Ma may attend as the chief executive of the Special Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, the official name under which Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
These hopes were quashed last Thursday when Fan Liqing, spokeswoman of the Taiwan Affairs Office, announced that Chinese Taipei’s participation in the Beijing APEC summit shouldn’t run counter to stipulations set forth in an APEC memorandum of understanding, arguing that any meeting of the top leaders of China and Taiwan shouldn’t take place at the venue of an international conference. All the efforts Taiwan made were in vain, and Ma is again back to square one.
The Ma-Xi meeting in Beijing was aborted solely because Ma insists that he be recognized as president of the Republic of China wherever he goes. Xi would have agreed to talk with Ma on the sidelines of next year’s APEC summit in Beijing if the latter had conceded to represent the economic entity of the Special Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. Ma dared not accept that title out of fear that he would be panned by the Democratic Progressive Party and its hard-core supporters of Taiwan independence. That’s why Ma chickened out when, after he proposed to conclude the peace accord, he came under fire in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election for changing course, promising not to begin peace negotiations before gaining public support and unless the process would be subject to the oversight of the Legislative Yuan.