Cross-strait relations set to strengthen, no matter who wins the Taiwanese presidential elections

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 November, 2015, 2:44pm

I am a supporter of the one-China consensus, and was glad that the leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou, met in Singapore and had a long handshake - the first such handshake since China's civil war ended in 1949.

Even more significant than the symbolic handshake was their hour-long closed-door meeting, followed by separate statements in which both leaders agreed to uphold the one-China consensus, with Xi mentioning the "one China" principle while Ma stressed that both sides had different understandings of "one China".

At the meeting, Ma proposed a cross-strait hotline between both sides, to which Xi was supportive. With one million Taiwanese residents living on the mainland, this proposal, if implemented, would be useful in improving economic ties and promoting mutual understanding, irrespective of which political party wins the Taiwan presidential election in January.

In registering concern at the meeting about mainland missiles facing Taiwan, Ma was voicing the worry of all Taiwanese people about a potential attack.

Although Xi's response to Ma was that the missiles were not targeted at Taiwan, this is such an emotionally charged cross-strait issue that mainland leaders would do well to review and strengthen their soft-power expertise on the handling of this issue in future.

Xi made a big stride forward by welcoming Taiwan to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the "One Belt, One Road" initiative. By participating, Taiwan will not only be able to work closely with the mainland but also get to know the other participants that come from Asia and other parts of the world.

As to Ma's other request that Taiwan, and especially its non-governmental organisations, be given more opportunity to participate in international society, Xi promised to "appropriately handle" the issue on a case-by-case basis.

I would view the Xi-Ma historic event in neutral Singapore as an unexpected but welcome channel that should facilitate leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resume contact once the presidential election is over.

The one-China consensus was first orally agreed upon in Hong Kong in 1992.

Unique for its "one country, two systems" and rule of law framework, Hong Kong must continue its role as a "super connector" in what is now recognised by many business offices as the Greater China area, comprising the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Hilton Cheong-Leen, To Kwa Wan