Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has come under fire from opposition parties and the media over an icebreaker meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Ma and Xi are set to speak in Singapore on Saturday in the first formal meeting between the highest leaders across the Taiwan Strait since 1949.

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Xi Jinping (left) and Ma Ying-jeou (right). Photo: Wikicommons/HKFP.

The sudden announcement of the historic summit followed months of “sneaky” negotiations and “shocked” Taiwan, the Liberty Times reported. By shutting out the public and the parliament in the decision making process, Ma has violated principles of openness and transparency, the liberal-leaning newspaper said.

Netizens also slammed the outgoing president and his Kuomintang (KMT) party for “selling out” the island nation shortly before his term draws to an end in January 2016, according to Taiwan’s Apple Daily.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), projected to unseat the KMT at the polls, has urged Ma to explain his decision to the public as the timing of the meeting is “debatable.”

During his re-election campaign in 2011, Ma had earlier promised that he would “absolutely never meet with mainland leaders over the next four years.”

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The Social Democratic Party also issued a statement calling on Ma to “stop the meeting” while the New Power Party “strongly condemned” the forthcoming summit, saying it will “harm Taiwan’s democracy.”

Ma’s spokesman Charles Chen I-hsin told the BBC that the historic talk will not yield any agreement or statement.

The goal of Ma’s trip is “to promote peace cross the Taiwan Strait and maintain status quo,” the BBC quoted the presidential spokesperson as saying.

Zhang Zhijun, director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, told Xinhua news agency that the Xi-Ma meeting was the result of “bilateral negotiations.” To bypass the thorny issue of titles, the two leaders will simply refer to each other as “Mr Xi” and “Mr Ma.”

Zhang stressed the talk was a “pragmatic arrangement” based on the “One China” principle—the common understanding, pre-dating Taiwan’s democratisation, that both sides belong to a single if differently defined nation.

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Campaign slogans of Tsai Ing-wen (left) and Eric Chu (right).

Coming after KMT chair and presidential candidate Eric Chu’s announcement of his “One Taiwan” campaign slogan on Monday, the news triggered accusations of hypocrisy online.

Taiwanese netizens have accused the party “saying ‘One Taiwan’ but thinking about ‘One China’”  and “thinking about ‘One China’ on ordinary days but automatically shifting their stance to ‘One Taiwan’ during campaign season.”

The design of Chu’s slogan was also accused of ripping off that of his DPP rival Tsai Ing-wen and her “Light up Taiwan” campaign slogan.

Premier Mao Chi-kuo and Secretary-General of the Presidential Office Tseng Yung-chuan are set to address the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s parliament, on Wednesday morning.

Ma will then hold a press conference on Thursday to respond to his critics, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.

Additional reporting by Ryan Kilpatrick

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.