Taiwan's president has flown to Singapore to meet with his Chinese counterpart for the first such sit-down ever. As the anti-Beijing attitude rises in Taiwan, Ma's visit prompted irate protests.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou left for Singapore to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, state media announced Saturday. The talks herald the first such meeting between the two countries since they split in 1949 at the end of the Chinese Civil War.
The meeting comes ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in Taiwan, and the prognosis for Ma's Kuomintang (KMT) party are bleak amid a rising tide of anti-Beijing sentiment. Indeed, according to French news agency AFP, angry protestors attempted to storm Taiwanese parliament on Saturday, chanting that the "traitor" Ma was heading to meet the "Chinese dictator."
Ma, however, defended his plans to the public ahead of his flight to Singapore, saying "I am here to promise to everyone, we must be doing our best to reach the goal that we set previously, making the Taiwan Strait more peaceful, making the two sides more cooperative."
Bilateral trade is likely on Ma's mind as well. While tourism has boomed since Ma took office in 2008, and took a warmer stance towards mainland China, many Taiwanese feel that only the elites have prospered from it - at the expensive of everyone else.
Also fueling anti-China sentiment is Beijing's aggressive land reclamation and military presence in the South China Sea. Ahead of the meeting with Ma, Xi Jinping said that freedom of passage in the sea and its valuable trade routes has never been in jeopardy.
After losing the mainland to Mao Zedong's communists, former Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek and his forces fled to the island of Taiwan, and the two have been governed separately ever since. China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province.
es/sms (AFP, Reuters)