TAIPEI: Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou Wednesday defended his policy of rapprochement with China ahead of a meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the chairman of the island’s ruling party, saying it had brought peace despite fears of Beijing’s increasing influence.
Xi is expected to meet Eric Chu, who succeeded Ma as chairman of the China-friendly Kuomintang party, in Beijing on Monday.
A group of 20-odd demonstrators from the radical anti-China opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) rallied in central Taipei against the meeting, alleging Chu could betray Taiwan’s interests.
“Chu would be ditched by Taiwan people and the Kuomintang pay a dear price if he reached an agreement with Xi sacrificing the interest of Taiwan people,” TSU chief Huang Kun-hui warned in a statement.
Ma, the initiator of rapprochement with China since 2008, however said Chu should meet with Xi and keep on track the “One China” policy which has paved way for the improved ties.
“I met with chairman Chu recently. We agreed on that,” he told reporters at the island’s top China policy decision-making body Mainland Affairs Council.
“The past seven years saw the spirit of ‘One China’ being implemented and unchanged, although some differences had erupted. In this way, ties have been pulled closer,” Ma said.
He was referring to the controversial “consensus” with Beijing, under which both Taipei and Beijing agreed there was only one China although each insists it represents the whole country.
“The consensus is not a cure-all, but indeed it has helped maintain the status quo and brought peace and prosperity,” Ma said.
“To Taiwan, the biggest significance of this is that regarding the most sensitive ‘one China’ issues, it created a political platform acceptable for two sides.”
The two split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, and Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
Ties improved markedly after Ma came to power in 2008, pledging to beef up trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in 2012.
But public sentiment in Taiwan has turned against the Beijing-friendly approach, with voters saying trade deals have been agreed in secret and not benefited ordinary citizens.
In March last year around 200 students occupied parliament for more than three weeks in protest against a controversial services trade pact, while thousands rallied in support of what became known as the “Sunflower Movement”.
The KMT suffered its worst-ever showing in local polls in November — seen as a barometer for presidential elections in 2016.
However, Ma said earlier this month that ties with Beijing were “back to normal”, and that government surveys showed opposition to the pace of rapprochement was declining.