3 March 2013, 11:56

Xi Jinping's visit to Taiwan: China wants to continue 'policy of engagement'

Xi Jinping's visit to Taiwan: China wants to continue 'policy of engagement'
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Dr Mathieu Duchatel, Senior Researcher with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and he is currently based in Beijing, about visit of Xi Jinping to Taiwan and relations between countries.

It is complicated and the important thing about this meeting between Xi Jinping and Lien Chan, who is the honorary chairman of the Kuomintang, is just the fact that it is one of the first meetings that Xi Jinping had with a regional leader, I would say. And it shows, and many people often forget about this, that the Taiwanese issue is still the priority in terms of regional security on the agenda of Xi Jinping. I think that’s a very clear signal.

Then, about the meeting itself, Lien Chan has a particular position within the Kuomintang and he has a particular position and role to play in cross-trade relations because of his trip to China in 2005, at a time when the Independence Party was leading Taiwan. And this 2005 visit to Beijing by Lien Chan and an important Kuomintang delegation re-affirmed the equation on the Taiwan Strait, and there was also a very-very important transformation of China’s policy towards Taiwan reaching out to the Kuomintang.

So, I think that if you want to try to analyze the meaning of this visit this Monday, it is symbolic. Lien Chan is not part of the Taiwanese Government, he is said to have some divergences or some differences with the President Ma Ying-jeou. But it is important because it shows that Xi Jinping wants to continue the policy of engagement with the Kuomintang and that it is one of his priorities.

And what does Beijing do to engage Taiwan?

The relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is very dance now. Since 2008 there is a full-fledged engagement of the mainland authorities on basically every issue, except security and defense. If you ask what the next steps are during the civil mandate of Ma Ying-jeou, which will come to an end in 2016, I think that the two sides have perhaps slightly different priorities. It is very clear that on the side of Beijing, the mainland, the goal is to sign a political agreement with Taiwan, what is called an agreement to cease the state of hostility between the two sides, or even a peace agreement that has been regularly mentioned by the authorities in Beijing.

In Taiwan I think that the priority is more to have confidence building measures without making too many concessions on the political fronts. I think that Ma Ying-jeou had been clear that under his civil mandate he would not actively pursue this goal of signing a peace agreement with Beijing. And even if some sort of agreement is reached before 2016, which is unlikely, he has made clear that there was one precondition – the authorities in Beijing should accept this agreement is accepted by the Taiwanese population through a referendum and that is not acceptable for Beijing. So, I think that the chances that this political agreement is signed in the next three years is actually quite low.

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