Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold talks with his counterpart on neighboring Taiwan Saturday, the first meeting of leaders from the two rivals since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949, coinciding with rising anti-China sentiment on Taiwan.
Both governments said the leaders would discuss cross-strait ties at the unexpected meeting in Singapore, weeks ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections in January which the pro-China Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), is likely to lose.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who steps down next year due to term limits, has made improving economic links with China a key policy since he took office in 2008. He has signed landmark business and tourism deals, though there has been no progress in resolving their political differences.
Communist China deems the proudly democratic island a breakaway province to be taken back, by force if necessary, particularly if it makes moves toward formal independence.
Tsai Ing-wen, presidential candidate for Taiwan’s main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which traditionally favors independence, said the manner of the announcement damaged democracy.
“I believe people across the country, like me, felt very surprised,” she said in prepared remarks to reporters.
“A meeting of the leaders of the two sides across the strait is a great event, involving the dignity and national interests of Taiwan. But to let the people know in such a hasty and chaotic manner is damaging to Taiwan’s democracy.”
DPP spokesman Cheng Yun-peng said the timing of the meeting was suspect. “How can people not think of this as a political operation intended…