Chinese President Congratulates Taiwan Leader
By SHARON LaFRANIERE
Published: July 27, 2009
BEIJING — President Hu Jintao of China congratulated on Monday the Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou after his election this weekend as chief of Taiwan’s governing party, a victory that analysts said could bolster Mr. Ma’s efforts to pursue engagement and economic ties with China.
Mr. Ma ran uncontested on Sunday in the election for Kuomintang party chief. He won 92.5 percent of about 300,000 votes cast, with a turnout of 58 percent, the party said.
Since his election 14 months ago as Taiwan’s president, Mr. Ma has pursued warmer relations with China, but not always with the wholehearted support of his own party.
“As party chairman, he can try to renovate the Kuomintang,” and try to overcome that opposition, said Bruce Jacobs, who directs Taiwan research at Australia’s Monash University.
China’s state-run media suggested that Mr. Ma’s election could set the stage for a historic meeting between him and Mr. Hu as party chiefs. In addition to being president, Mr. Hu is general secretary of China’s governing Communist Party.
Any meeting between them as heads of state would immediately raise the sensitive issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Contacts between the sides on a party-to-party basis might be more politically acceptable.
Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which has been ruled separately since 1949, when the Chinese civil war ended with the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang forces.
Mr. Ma has ruled out any meeting for now, saying that the Taiwanese people are split over the issue.
Mr. Jacobs said a meeting was unlikely. He characterized the exchange of messages between Mr. Hu and Mr. Ma about the election as “probably more of a formality.”
In his congratulatory telegram to Mr. Ma, Mr. Hu said, “I hope our two parties can continue to promote peaceful development in cross-strait relations, and help bolster mutual trust between the two sides in political affairs,” Chinese state media reported.
In response, on Monday, Mr. Ma said, “We should continue efforts to consolidate peace in the Taiwan Strait and rebuild regional stability.”