Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou, the leaders of the two sides across the Taiwan Straits, are expected to meet in Singapore on November 7.
But when did the two sides start to work out the historic meeting? Zhang Zhijun, head of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, hinted at the answers in his talk on November 4.
“Since the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council and Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council established a contact system, the two sides have been keeping in touch over major cross-Straits issues, striving for more exchanges between people of all areas and all levels. During this period of time, the two sides also talked about possible meeting between their leaders,” said Zhang.
Apparently, the two sides have been discussing the possibility of the two leaders meeting since 2014. Four people have played key roles in realizing this meeting. They are Vincent Siew, former vice-chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT); Zhang Zhijun; Wang Yu-chi, former head of the Mainland Affairs Council, and Andrew Hsia, the new mainland affairs chief.
Vincent Siew used to be head of Taiwan’s Executive Yuan and the “vice-president” of Taiwan. After retiring as the Executive Yuan head in 2000, he kept active as the chairman of the Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation. In the past two years, Xi has met Siew on several occasions.
When Xi met Siew in Bali, Indonesia on October 6, Xi said “The heads of departments in charge of cross-Straits affairs can also meet and exchange ideas.” On the same day, the Taiwan Affairs Office head Zhang Zhijun and the Mainland Affairs Council head Wang Yu-chi made a brief contact. Although the meeting was only five minutes, it was the first time in 64 years the two departments on the two sides directly met with each other.
In February 2014, Zhang and Wang met again, establishing regular contact between the Taiwan Affairs Office and the Mainland Affairs Council. Wang invited Zhang to visit Taiwan. In June 2014, Zhang paid the visit to Taiwan. After that, exchanges between the two organizations increased.
In May 2015, Zhang met the new Mainland Affairs Council head Hsia. In November, Hsia visited the mainland as head of the Mainland Affairs Council for the first time, meeting Zhang in Guangzhou. The two “exchanged ideas over issues concerning the cross-Straits ties and problems in their relations, reaching positive consensus.” Zhang told the media that both sides believe the meeting between Xi and Ma “will have a positive impact on the cross-Straits relations on the long run.”