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Ma shares his impressions of Chinese leader

2015/11/08 12:14:53

Taipei, Nov. 8 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he sees Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) as a leader sometimes quick in making decisions after their first meeting and dinner together.

Asked about his impressions of the Chinese leader, Ma also told reporters on a flight back to Taiwan that "apparently neither of us is a good drinker."

Earlier in Singapore, the two leaders and half a dozen officials on either side had a closed-door meeting, followed by a dinner in which liquor -- Kaoliang from Taiwan and Moutai from China -- as well as a rice wine from Taiwan's offshore island of Matsu were served.

Sitting next to each other at a round table, Ma said, he and Xi talked about alcoholic drinks, Chinese zodiac signs and special produce from various regions, etc.

Ma said that, until their meeting, he had learned about Xi only by reading material on the Chinese leader.

Having finally met him, Ma said he found Xi capable of making quick decisions on some issues, such as the possibility of allowing more Chinese students to come to Taiwan.

During the official meeting, Ma mentioned the hope of many Taiwanese universities that China would allow their junior college graduates to pursue a university degree in Taiwan.

It is difficult for a junior college graduate to squeeze into a university in China while there are about 20,000 vacancies each year in Taiwan, Ma told the Chinese president.

On hearing this, Xi instructed Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), minister of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, to handle the issue, according to Ma. "Just like that," Ma added.

On the question of a bilateral trade-in-goods agreement and the proposed exchange of representative offices, Xi said China will work on those issues as soon as possible, Ma told reporters.

Ma and Xi became the first leaders from Taiwan and China to meet since 1949, when the Nationalist (Kuomintang) government retreated to Taiwan after its defeat in a civil war with the communists.

During their talks, the two leaders reaffirmed a consensus reached by both sides in 1992 as a political foundation for the continuation of the warm relations seen across the Taiwan Strait over the past seven years.

Ma, who began his first four-year term in 2008, is due to step down in May 2016 and is likely to be replaced by Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), chairwoman and presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which does not accept the 1992 Consensus, under which the two sides agreed there is only one China, with each free to interpret what that China is.

Pressed on the issue, Tsai would only say that, if elected, she would maintain the status quo under the constitution of the Republic of China.

(By Hsieh Chia-chen and Jay Chen)