China's new leader Xi Jinping treads peacefully on Taiwan issue | Asia Pacific

China's new leader Xi Jinping treads peacefully on Taiwan issue

China's new leader Xi Jinping treads peacefully on Taiwan issue

Updated 27 February 2013, 9:52 AEDT

China's President-elect Xi Jinping has met with a high-level Taiwanese political and business delegation, in a reaffirmation of warming relations between the two sides.

Mr Xi, who will be sworn into office next month, told Lien Chan, honorary chairman of Taiwan's ruling nationalist KMT, the new Chinese leadership will continue developing that relationship.

He said Beijing is still seeking Taiwan's 'peaceful reunification' with the mainland.

China still sees Taiwan as a breakaway province despite warming relations and a bilateral trade worth US$120 billion last year.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Dr David Huang, associate research fellow, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

HUANG: I think Lien Chan's visit tried to re-confirm the Lien and Hu (Jintao) meeting in 2005, which reached the 'four-concensus' which meant that they'll continue a peaceful development course in Cross-Straits relations. And of course, China wants Lien to reconfirm the One-China principle. This is the basis of the Cross-Straits rapprochement since 2008.

Something which Beijing would Lien to recognise is that the current course of Cross-Straits relations should not be reversed. There's a lot of economic and cultural and educational exchanges, and that should not be reversed. But Beijing would also like Lien Chan to say something that, perhaps in the future, there will be unification. I think in the future, both sides will talk more about substantive issues, about political relations - how to build a pre-reunification legal relationship between China and Taiwan.

LAM: Lien Chan of course is the former Chair of the ruling KMT in Taiwan. But do you think the fact that China's new party chief Xi Jinping met with him, means that the mainland holds him with some high regard?

HUANG: Oh, definitely. I think from Beijing's perspective, Lien Chan has already assumed a very important historical place, because since 2005, his historical landmark visit to Beijing, which actually broke the ice between China and Taiwan. So, from the Chinese Communist Party's (point of view), Lien Chan holds an important historical stand in history.

LAM: The new Communist Party chief and new President Xi Jinping is also a former governor of China's Fujian province, so at least he shares a similar dialect group with the Taiwanese - do you think this might have some influence in future Cross-Strait relations?

HUANG: Well he was the secretary-general of Fujian province, and he understands most of the Taiwanese businessmen. I think he has alot of friends in Taiwan, especially Taiwanese businessmen. He knows how to deal with business people in Taiwan. He keeps track of all daily matters of the Cross Straits relationship.

LAM: Xi Jinping might be very friendly with Taiwan and the Taiwanese business people as you point out, nonetheless, he still holds on to this steely resolve, would you say, for eventual reunification? To draw Taiwan back into the mainland?

HUANG: Exactly. I think he will definitely take a tougher line on those so-called 'Taiwan independence movement' people. But at the same time, I think he'll probably be more flexible. Business, some of the cultural and even educational exchanges - to frame the One-China common recognition.

The Beijing leadership cannot understand why after four years of very, very decent and goodwill shared between the two sides, still the Taiwanese people identify themselves as Taiwanese only. And the percentage of those Taiwanese identity increased substantially since 2008. Xi Jinping would probably like to push forward for more common understanding of so-called 'One-China'.

LAM: So how much of this current goodwill across the Taiwan Straits is dependent on the KMT government holding on to office? Will it make a difference if the Opposition got back into power?

HUANG: From Beijing's perspective, of course, they prefer to deal with the KMT, but I think currently in Taiwan, even the Opposition party, the DPP would like to engage in dialogue with Beijing or even Chinese people. So I think the U-Turn of Cross Straits relations in the next two years is unlikely. This is because the KMT is so cautious about the current Cross-Straits policy, that it might undermine their chance of re-election in two years. I mean, next year, there'll be local elections.

The KMT currently tries to withstand all kinds of temptations or pressures from Beijing, trying to push for political dialogue or even a kind of peace agreement dialogue and negotiations. Although people in Taiwan would like to have a good relationship, a friendly relationship with Beijing, but final unification is a long shot.


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