Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says his landmark meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will be conducted on the basis of “equality and dignity” as they will call each other “Mr.” instead of their official titles.

“The two sides will not use their official names or official titles in the meeting. For the first time the interaction will be carried out using the name of a Taiwanese and mainland leader. [We] will call each other ‘Mr’ instead of using titles. This way [we] can achieve real equality and dignity,” Ma said at a press conference on Thursday.

“It shows the two sides are flexible and pragmatic in dealing with cross-strait affairs. It also adheres to our long-held principle of ‘mutual non-recognition of sovereignty and mutual non-denial of governing authority’.”

Ma meets reporters in Taiwan. Photo: Now TV screencap.

Ma and Xi will hold talks in Singapore on Saturday in the first meeting of the highest leaders across the Taiwan Strait since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

“It will be a historic landmark,” Ma said.

The press conference came after Ma was criticised by opposition parties and the media for the “sudden announcement” of the “sneaky” meeting. He was urged to explain why the public and the parliament were not consulted about the meeting.

Addressing a room full of foreign and local journalists, Ma said the meeting was decided a month ago. It is a “natural result” of the progress made in improving cross-strait ties in the past few years, he said.

Photo: HKFP.

Reduce hostility and regularise talks

Ma said the purpose of the summit will be to “reduce hostility,” “expand cooperation economically” and “take the first step in regularising meetings between cross-strait leaders.”

The Taiwanese president stressed that there will be no political negotiations in the meeting. No agreements will be signed, no joint statements will be issued and no “private promises” will be made, he said.

Ma also said the meeting will be based on the principle of the “1992 consensus,” meaning both sides will acknowledge that there’s only “one China,” but they can interpret it differently.

Ma and Xi will hold a closed door meeting which will start at 3pm on Saturday. At 4:30pm, the two sides will hold their separate press conferences and each will issue a statement. Ma said the statements will only mention issues which the two sides have consensus on in order to “reduce complications.”

While the sole purpose of Ma’s Singapore trip is to meet with Xi, the Chinese president will be in Singapore for a state visit and meet with Prime Minister Lee Hsien-loong.

No Singaporean officials will sit in on the Xi-Ma meeting.

Vivienne Zeng

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.