Rashad Seyfaddin: “Needless to say that this meeting is a “historic improvement” for both societies”

Photo from personal archive
                                      Photo from personal archive

For the first time since 1949, president of Taiwan and secretary general of Chinese Communist Party held an official meeting in Singapore. According to official statements no further meetings are planned, as expectations from that formal meeting were not so high.

But, why did it happen?

Taiwan’s local opposition is strongly against of any kind of dialogue with China and blamed President Ma – Ying jeou over his Singapore meeting. What is your opinion about it?

Firstly, needed to say that both of sides were preparing for the meeting beforehand, each of detail had been discussed, even the colors of tie, and needless to say that this meeting is ahistoric improvement”, first official meeting between leaders of the Strait since 1949, opening up a historic page in cross-Strait relations. At the same time the choice of  the meeting place is not accidental, the first public meeting between the Taiwanese and mainland Chinese NGOs was held in 1993 in Singapore, so the leaders felt comfortable here and a place where to minimize the chance of rowdy demonstrations, and where journalists are used to disciplined press conferences.

Despite Taiwan’s local opposition were against this meeting, as you mentioned, but on  the other hand, Taiwan’s political observers have warmly welcomed the Singapore meeting between two leaders and were full of hope that meeting would help settle disputes and bring improvement of cross-Strait ties. Ma and Xi are referred to as the “leader of the Mainland and the leader of Taiwan,” according the protocol both of sides addressed each other as “mister” to avoid using the word “president”, that show Xi Jinping takes major step with respect to Taiwanese and Chinese sides also had to give up the demand that the price of a presidential meeting would be “political” talks.  

In Taipei, some people gathered in front of the parliament building in order to protest the meeting. Actually KMT (Guomingdang) has had long reputation of being better able to manage relations with the mainland, so China would much prefer to have the KMT in office,  therefore I consider, this meeting  it is important to send a message to the Taiwan society regarding the bright prospects of cross-strait cooperation.

Could it be perceive as an attempt to normalize relations with China, taking into account that Ma was born in Hong Kong?

Despite Ma Ying-jeou was born in Hongkong, I don’t think that it is the main motivation and reason behind the attempts normalize relations with mainland, normalizing relations would be advantageous for both of sides, Taiwan investment in China estimates for billion US dollars, Mainland-Taiwan trade in January-August 2015 amounted up to US$122.74 billion and In January-August 2015, a total of 1,841 Taiwan-funded projects were approved in the mainland, thus Taiwan is the 7th largest trade partner and the 6th largest source of imports. Also Taiwan economically depends on China’s market for sustainable development.

If we look at the history of bilateral relations, it will be surfaced that relations have improved since 2008, when Ma Ying-jeou was elected as a new president of Taiwan. Ma is a member of the Kuomintang, which, ironically enough has recently become Taiwan’s more pro-China party. The question is, what will be happened after next presidential election in 2016 in Taiwan?  But Ma takes a wisdom step for Taiwan by seeking cooperation with mainland China.  And also he supposed to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. It looks like he really thinks that the cooperation with the mainland is possible and it would the best alternative for Taiwan’s people.

But from percentage of respondents, I could underline that, the meeting won’t help the KMT in the upcoming election. I speculate that while Ma holds the presidential office in Taipei, after the meetings, he would establish a historic precedent compare to other Taiwan leaders. But the question is why did Ma urge Chinese leader for meeting in Singapore, as both of sides are well informed that the next elections will be held in 2016? Maybe, Ma really is seeking for the support of mainland during the next elections.

What about official polls and public opinion in both countries? What does think societies about possible bilateral relations with China?

There is no doubt that Chinese culture is at the core of Taiwan’s society. Most Taiwanese people speaks Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien (originated from a dialect in southern Fujian- spoken by about 70% of the population of Taiwan), both of Chinese dialects observe Chinese traditions and customs, celebrate Chinese holidays, live on a staple of Chinese food and have Chinese names. Recently the China has removed entry permit requirements for Taiwan residents from since 2015, with the revision, Taiwan residents just need a travel pass for entering the mainland and do not have to apply for a visa for each visit.  According to official statistics in 2014, Taiwan residents made 5.37 million visits to the mainland, up from 4.36 million in 2008. Mainlanders made 4.04 million visits to Taiwan last year, compared with 280,000 in 2008. These statistics let us to believe that the separation issue must solve as soon as possible. Only a united country can be able to stand out from global competition. There is no doubt that Taiwan and the mainland needs each other.

Azerbaijan also has such a main problem – the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as aforesaid, Taiwan issue can be compare to Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh problem,  Here I would like to emphasize that the Taiwan issue is also manages by third country. Taiwan was once taken away by another country, but was returned to China in 1945 de jure and then de facto. But important issue that China’s economic concession to Taiwan is surely attractive and appealing.

Therefore, this is an issue of recovery of lost territory and a question in the terms of how and when the reunification will be realized. Azerbaijan and China are promoting friendly relations with its neighbors, in a word two countries are maintaining its current “good neighbor” diplomacy, no any country wants war, but unfortunately 20% territory of Azerbaijan still has been occupied as a result of the military aggression of the Republic of Armenia.

In the end, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev speaks highly of Azerbaijan’s firm support to China on Taiwan and Tibet questions and our country unswervingly adhere to the one-China policy and strengthen cooperation with China in the United Nations and other international organizations. And we always felt China side supports settlement of the Armenian-Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and principles of the international law.

Rashad Seyfaddin, is a leading research fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of Azerbaijan Republic. 

Note: These answers are personal view of interviewer and does not represent the government’s position.