Chinese are upbeat but reactions mixed in Taiwan

Police officers drag an activist protesting against the upcoming Singapore meeting between Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou and China's President Xi Jinping, in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov 4, 2015.
Police officers drag an activist protesting against the upcoming Singapore meeting between Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou and China's President Xi Jinping, in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov 4, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

China's media was upbeat yesterday about news of the upcoming meeting in Singapore between the Chinese and Taiwan presidents, while the Taiwanese press and public received it with either optimism or scorn.

Commentators in China hailed Saturday's meeting between China's Xi Jinping and Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou as momentous and historical, saying it signalled a possible breakthrough in ties.

An editorial in the Communist Party-linked Global Times said the summit will exert a positive influence on the island's policy towards the mainland and lauded Mr Ma for agreeing to the meeting.

"Applause will break out all over the globe," it said. "It will be a victory of peace, a victory of rationality."

The article also hit out at the objections of pro-independence factions in Taiwan to the meeting, saying that their "extremism" will not last and is certain to be stigmatised.

Other Chinese commentators took the opportunity to broach the topic of reunification with Taiwan. Beijing considers the island a breakaway Chinese province.

One news website opinion article said the Xi-Ma meeting is being held "to seek the greater good for the Chinese people", while another noted that "the sea which separates the two shores is an everlasting scar".

The Chinese public also applauded the occasion. However, while most Chinese netizens agreed that the meeting would benefit both sides, they lamented the fact that its timing was less than ideal, coming when Mr Ma's influence and popularity is waning in Taiwan.

While calling it a good thing, one person wrote on microblog site Weibo that "it comes too late and won't help anything".

Mr Ma and his Kuomintang are facing a hostile electorate upset about its overtures towards Beijing.

Depending on political leanings, the Taiwanese media and public either derided the summit, or saw it as an opportunity to foster better ties. The pro-Kuomintang United Daily News said the Xi-Ma meeting is set to write a new page in history and shows that the two sides cannot be in a constant stand-off.

"To seek independence is a dead end, and Taiwan must manoeuvre within parameters that Beijing can accommodate," it said.

Business groups in Taiwan were similarly quoted expressing hope that the meeting will pave the way for warmer ties.

Critics of China, however, took to social media to lambast the occasion, with some reportedly dubbing any greeting between the leaders as "a handshake of death".

The meeting is a sign of Beijing "quickening its steps" of reunification, after surveys have shown that most Taiwanese want to remain independent, yet predict the island will be reunified with China one day, said a commentary in the pro-independence Liberty Times.

"Does the Republic of China belong to Ma Ying-jeou and Kuomintang?" it asked, referring to Taiwan's official name. "The truth is, Ma Ying-jeou is preparing to destroy the Republic of China."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2015, with the headline 'Chinese are upbeat but reactions mixed in Taiwan'. Print Edition | Subscribe