- - Sunday, September 1, 2013

I am afraid it could be too early to reject the possibility that Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou will meet his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, in Shanghai’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting next year (“Inside China: China ridicules Indian navy,” Web, Aug. 22). Mr. Xi may soon realize that this timing is the best and perhaps the only opportunity for them to meet officially before 2016, when Mr. Ma will end the last term of his presidency.

As your piece mentioned, China has opposed any meeting between the leaders of China and Taiwan at any international conference because of the “one-China” principle. This claims Taiwan is part of China — and it rejects Mr. Ma as the leader of a sovereign country. However, Taiwan’s official status in the APEC since 1991 is an “economic entity” similar to the island’s status as a “custom entity” in the World Trade Organization, where the memberships of China and Taiwan have coexisted since their entries in 2002. This is why Mr. Ma’s possible participation next year in APEC’s nonofficial summit as an “economic leader” of an “economic entity” will not necessarily challenge China’s political taboo, especially when Shanghai will be the host city by then.

More importantly, only if the Ma-Xi meeting were to be sponsored by an international organization such as APEC can it help ease worries among the Taiwanese people, who hate to see Taiwan being downgraded as a locality subject to China. Otherwise, it will be unwise for Mr. Ma to risk his popularity to engage in a political adventure with Mr. Xi, who has proposed political talks since March.

Undoubtedly, this unprecedented meeting between leaders of both sides of the Taiwan Strait will be a milestone for the more than six decades of history in cross-strait relations. Now the ball is in Mr. Xi’s court. He can make history if he is really keen to.


CHARLES I-HSIN CHEN

Center of Taiwan Studies

School of Oriental and African Studies

University of London