Xi-Ma summit fails to dent Taiwan opposition leader's lead

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou before their meeting in Singapore.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou before their meeting in Singapore. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI • Taiwan's opposition presidential candidate retains a big lead ahead of upcoming elections, according to two opinion polls released yesterday, despite a historic summit between President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The breakthrough meeting last Saturday was the first by the leaders of the two sides since China's civil war ended in 1949, but it has stoked debate over the island's ties with its giant neighbour in the lead-up to January's presidential and parliamentary elections.

The independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has accused Mr Ma of trying to revive the chances of his ruling Nationalist party, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT), in the elections with the surprise summit.

An opinion poll by Taiwan's Cross-Strait Policy Association on Sunday showed 48.6 per cent of 1,014 people surveyed supported DPP leader and candidate Tsai Ing-wen while 21.4 per cent backed KMT candidate Eric Chu.

That compared with support of 45.2 per cent for Ms Tsai in mid-October and 21.9 per cent for Mr Chu in an earlier poll by the association, which comprises prominent scholars and bipartisan figures.

"The Ma-Xi meeting wasn't aimed at interfering in Taiwan's elections. It is to set the tone for the cross-strait relationship in the post-Ma generation," said association member Pang Chien-kuo at a news conference yesterday.

A second poll of 1,330 people by a new group, founded last month of bipartisan academics in Taiwan, called the Justice Association found that 32.7 per cent would vote for Ms Tsai, while 21.1 per cent backed Mr Chu. The remainder gave their support to minority candidates or chose not to vote.

President Ma's attempts to forge closer ties with China, mostly on the economic and trade front, have been greeted with some suspicion in Taiwan, with student protesters last year storming and occupying Parliament for several weeks to demand the scrapping of a wide-ranging trade pact with Beijing.

Meanwhile, the state-run mainland Chinese newspaper Global Times has denounced Ms Tsai as narrow-minded and selfish for criticising the historic Xi-Ma meeting.

Ms Tsai has said she was disappointed that Mr Ma made no direct mention of Taiwan's freedoms and democracy.

The paper said in an editorial that she had "made gaffes", describing her as "wrathful" in an attempt to "belittle the meeting".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'Xi-Ma summit fails to dent Taiwan opposition leader's lead'. Print Edition | Subscribe