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Ma-Xi meeting outlet for de-escalating tensions: Academic

04/12/2024 03:58 PM
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People in Taipei watch the TV broadcast of the Ma-Xi meeting in Beijing on Wednesday. CNA photo April 10, 2024
People in Taipei watch the TV broadcast of the Ma-Xi meeting in Beijing on Wednesday. CNA photo April 10, 2024

Taipei, April 12 (CNA) The meeting between Taiwan's former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) in Beijing on Wednesday offered an outlet for de-escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait, an academic said Friday.

In particular, it helped soften radical calls within China to reunify Taiwan by force, argued Chang Wu-ueh (張五岳), an associate professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of China Studies, at a forum in Taipei on the meeting and the United States-Japan-Philippines Leaders Summit.

Chang said the encounter gave Xi a chance to showcase his policy of peaceful exchanges and unification both internationally and within China, offering him a "face-saving exit," without which he would have to continue adopting a "tough" stance against Taiwan.

That could lead meetings between Ma and Xi to become the norm, as Xi needs a mechanism to tout his peaceful reunification goal and to alienate the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Chang argued.

Ma, who last year made an 11-day trip to China during which he met with numerous Chinese officials, was an ideal candidate for such a mechanism to work, Chang said, and with 2025 the 10th anniversary of their first meeting, the two were likely to meet again next year.

Then President Ma Ying-jeou (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands when they met in Singapore on Nov. 7, 2015. CNA file photo
Then President Ma Ying-jeou (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands when they met in Singapore on Nov. 7, 2015. CNA file photo

Their first meeting in Singapore in 2015 came while Ma was still president of the Republic of China, Taiwan's formal name.

Chang was also not worried about possible attempts by China to act disruptively before Taiwan's President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) takes office on May 20.

Although communication between Taiwan and China ground to a halt after the DPP returned to power in 2016, communication channels between China and the U.S. and between Taiwan and the U.S. are still open, Chang said.

With these "safety valves" in place, any risks that come with attempts by Beijing to ratchet up tensions in the Taiwan Strait before May 20 will be "manageable and without any surprises," he predicted.

The conference also touched on the summit between U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on April 11.

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Taipei-based Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said it cemented the U.S.-Japan-Philippines joint security mechanism, which forms part of a larger defense network against China.

He cited discussions between Biden and Kishida about what is being called the greatest upgrade to the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan since 1960, which will see the two countries engage in more coordinated command between U.S. forces stationed in Japan and the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

This security network can operate in tandem with the existing U.S.-United Kingdom-Australia and U.S.-Japan-South Korea security mechanisms to form a comprehensive regional security network against China, Su said.

(By Sean Lin and Henry Wu)

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