Beijing ends Ma Ying-jeou's dream of meeting Xi Jinping at next Apec summit

State Council's Taiwan Affairs Council says such a meeting is for Chinese on both sides of strait and will not be held at international event

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 4:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 4:23pm

Beijing has ruled out the possibility of the two leaders from across the Taiwan Strait meeting during next year's Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit on the mainland.

Fan Liqing, spokeswoman of the mainland State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, made it clear at a news conference in Beijing yesterday that such an event would not take place.

"A cross-strait leaders' meeting is an affair between the Chinese people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and will not be held through any international venue," she was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

Fan said Apec's memorandum of understanding clearly laid out the criteria for the Taiwan delegation to attend the informal leaders' meeting and, by taking part, Taipei would be indicating it was prepared to abide by the regulations.

Her comments dashed any hopes of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou meeting President Xi Jinping at the summit.

Beijing still regards Taiwan as a wayward province despite warming cross-strait relations aided by Ma's policy, since he took office in 2008, of engaging Beijing. The mainland leadership has consistently opposed the attendance of the Taiwanese leader at the summit to avoid the impression that the island is an independent state.

The Ma government had hoped that improved relations between the two sides would have led Beijing, as the summit's host, to agree to Ma participating in the Apec meeting.

Wang Kung-yi, director of Taiwan Strategy Research Association, said improved relations between Taiwan and the mainland - which have been rivals since the civil war which ended in 1949 - is considered by Ma to be his most important goal in ensuring he maintains credibility in his leadership of the island.

"With poor approval ratings for failing to lift Taiwan's economy, and other lacklustre domestic administration, a Ma-Xi meeting amid the cross-strait rapprochement would have given him something to brag about after his tenure ends in 2016," Wang said.

During the Apec summit held on the Indonesian resort island of Bali earlier this month, Taiwanese media gave prominence to reports about the possibility of Ma meeting Xi next year, saying former vice-president Vincent Siew Wan-chang, an economic technocrat and the Taiwanese envoy representing Ma at the event, could have discussed the possibility during a meeting between the two on the sidelines of the summit.

Siew later denied he had discussed such a matter with Xi.

Wang Yu-chi, who heads Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council and attended the event as one of Siew's aides, also refuted reports of discussions of such a meeting.

During a legislative session in Taipei yesterday, Wang said "it is still too premature to discuss the issue".

But the mainland did not entirely close the door on a Ma-Xi meeting, as Fan pointed out there would be chances for such meetings at other venues. "We have long endorsed meetings between leaders across the Strait and will remain positive and open to any move that benefits peace and relations across the Strait," she said.

Li Fei , deputy director of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said a meeting at an international venue like Apec would "violate the one China principle".

"If such a meeting took place, what sort of status would be given to Ma? If he used the title of Republic of China president, it would create a misunderstanding globally that the mainland had changed its 'one China' stand," Li said.

Additional reporting by Minnie Chan