Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has said his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping responded positively when he asked for help to ease the international blockade facing Taiwan.

Ma met with Xi in Singapore on Saturday in an historic summit which marked the first time Chinese and Taiwanese presidents have met in their official capacities since 1949.

xi-ma meeting
Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP

At a press conference following the summit, Ma revealed he told the Chinese president Taiwan wanted to take part in “world economic integration.”

“He said he was willing to talk about such issues. He said he was happy for us to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and ‘One Belt One Road’,” Ma said.

However, at a separate press conference, China’s Taiwan affairs director Zhang Zhijun put things slightly differently. Zhang said Beijing “welcomes Taiwan compatriots to take part in the building of ‘One Belt One Road’ and welcomes Taiwan to join the AIIB in an appropriate form.”

The AIIB is the first international bank initiated and led by China. So far, more than 50 states have joined, including the UK, Germany, France and Australia, but not the US. The “One Belt One Road” initiative is China’s drive to enhance economic cooperation with mainly Eurasian countries.

Ma said he also raised the issue of the marginalisation of Taiwan’s NGOs and scholars on the international stage with Xi.

“I especially mentioned that when our people wanted to visit the United Nations [headquarters in Geneva], they couldn’t even use their passports to get a visitor permit. [Such incidents] generate a lot of complaints from people,” Ma said.

Amicable meeting

The Chinese and Taiwanese presidents both smiled broadly when they shook hands before sitting down for talks at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore. The handshake lasted for about 80 seconds before they both raised their hands to wave at reporters.

Later at the press conference, Ma was asked how he felt when he shook hands with Xi.

“Quite good, we both squeezed hard,” Ma said.

One step at a time

When asked if he has invited Xi to visit Taiwan, Ma said: “Not yet… Let’s take it one step at a time.”

When another journalist asked if Ma will meet with Xi again in the last half-year of his term, Ma said with a smile: “You are way ahead of us.”

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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.