Xi-Ma meeting is 'moment in history', but do not expect 'dramatic announcement': George Yeo

Former foreign minister George Yeo said the meeting is a step forward not just for China and Taiwan, but for other Asian countries.
Former foreign minister George Yeo said the meeting is a step forward not just for China and Taiwan, but for other Asian countries.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The meeting between China's President Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou is a moment in history, but no one should expect "dramatic announcements at the end of the Singapore meeting", former foreign minister George Yeo said.

The meeting of the top leaders in Singapore on Saturday (Nov 7) was confirmed on Tuesday (Nov 3).

Mr Yeo, who was Singapore's foreign minister from 2004 to 2011, noted in a statement: "Not since Mao Zedong met Chiang Kai-shek 70 years ago in Chongqing in 1945 has there been a summit meeting between the two sides.

"That meeting failed and led to a civil war which eventually divided China along the Straits of Taiwan."

The upcoming meeting will "discuss peaceful cross-straits relations", said Mr Yeo, adding this is a step forward not just for China and Taiwan, but also for other Asian countries.

 

"In agreeing to meet, both sides take a pragmatic approach which is good for Chinese people living on the Mainland and in Taiwan. It should be good news for all Chinese people because the division of China was the result of long years of Western and Japanese imperialism which humiliated all Chinese people. It is good news for Singapore and for many people living in Asia because better cross-straits relations create better conditions for peaceful development in the entire region."

But he also sounded a cautionary note against expecting too much from this one meeting, emphasising its symbolic import above all: "The meeting is the drama which will hopefully open a new chapter in the history of China and the peaceful revival of the Chinese nation. That the meeting should now take place is because of careful diplomatic preparation. The symbolism of the meeting itself will alter the psychology of cross-straits relations in a positive way for years to come. Whoever becomes President of Taiwan next year should then begin his or her term of office in a better position."

Mr Yeo also pointed to Singapore's good relations with both sides which have led to the country being chosen as the venue for this historic meeting: "Singapore has a 'One China' policy and has close relations with both the Mainland and Taiwan. We are linked to both by history, culture and blood. It is an honour for us to play host as it was when we played host to the historic Wang-Koo talks in 1993."