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Former President Ma meets Xi Jinping in Beijing

04/10/2024 08:33 PM
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People watch the TV broadcast of the Ma-Xi meeting in Beijing on Wednesday. CNA photo April 10, 2024
People watch the TV broadcast of the Ma-Xi meeting in Beijing on Wednesday. CNA photo April 10, 2024

Taipei, April 10 (CNA) Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Wednesday met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) in Beijing, in a reprise of the pair's historic 2015 summit in Singapore.

The meeting held in the Great Hall of the People came at the tail end of Ma's April 1-11 visit to China and featured appeals from both sides to the warmer relations the sides enjoyed during Ma's 2008-2016 tenure.

After greeting each other with an extended handshake in front of photographers, Xi praised "Mr. Ma" for upholding the "1992 consensus," opposing Taiwan independence, and promoting the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and exchanges.

"I have a high estimation of all this," he said.

"Compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are Chinese. There is no issue we can't resolve, no problem we can't discuss. There is no force that can separate us," Xi said.

Xi said that while the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have "different systems," this did not change the fact that they are "part of the same country."

"External interference cannot impede the historic reunion of family and country," he added.

Xi did not directly address Taiwan's recent elections or the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德), whom Beijing has previously assailed as a "troublemaker" and a dangerous "separatist."

Rather, he ended his remarks with a broad appeal for cross-strait unity, particularly among young people, whom he urged to continue working to write a "bright" new chapter in the history of the Chinese people.

Ma, meanwhile, thanked the Chinese side for the warm reception they had given the student delegation he is leading, which he said had deepened their understanding of Chinese culture and shown that "blood is thicker than water."

"The Chinese people went through a hundred years of humiliation. In the last 30 years, through the efforts of Chinese people on both sides of the [Taiwan] strait, they have made steps together toward Chinese revitalization," Ma said.

"Although the two sides of the strait have developed under different systems, the people on both sides are descendants of the Yan and Yellow emperors, and should work for the revitalization of China," he said.

Ma acknowledged the recent tensions between the sides. If a cross-strait war were to break out, he warned, it would have "unbearably heavy" consequences.

But "Chinese people on both sides of the strait" have sufficient wisdom to handle their disputes and avoid a march toward conflict, he said.

Ma noted that in 1992, both sides had agreed to a "one China principle," with each side free to determine what "China" means.

To guarantee the future welfare of their people, the sides of the Taiwan Strait should adhere to the 1992 consensus, oppose Taiwan independence, and look for common ground while setting aside disputes, Ma said, before closing with the hope that the sides would seek out "win-win" solutions and pursue peaceful development.

The "1992 consensus" was a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and the Chinese government. It has been consistently interpreted by the KMT as an acknowledgment by both sides that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what "China" means.

Beijing, however, has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT's interpretation.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has never acknowledged the "1992 consensus," arguing that Beijing does not recognize the Republic of China (Taiwan) and that acceptance of the consensus would imply agreement with China's claim over Taiwan.

Beijing considers Taipei's acceptance of the "1992 consensus" as a prerequisite for dialogue between the two governments and has cut off all formal communications with Taipei since the DPP came to power in 2016.

Prior to the Ma-Xi meeting Wednesday, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said he believed Ma's trip was an important step in promoting peaceful cross-strait exchanges.

He emphasized that as a party, the KMT pursues a foreign policy that is "close to the United States, friendly to Japan, and peaceful with China."

Wu Cheng (吳崢), a spokesman for the DPP, said his party "respects" Ma's right as a private citizen to visit China, but urged Beijing to treat him in a way befitting a former head of state and not purposely make things difficult for him.

Ma's meeting with Xi on Wednesday came nine years after their 2015 summit in Singapore, which marked the first meeting of leaders from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

He also led a Taiwanese student delegation to China last year -- becoming the first former ROC president to do so since the war -- but did not travel to Beijing on that trip. Ma is scheduled to return to Taiwan Thursday morning.

(By Lu Chia-jung, Yeh Su-ping, Liu Kuan-ting and Matthew Mazzetta)

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