TAIPEI, Taiwan - The site of the landmark meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou and mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping was abuzz with media and a foreshadowing of heightened security measures, yesterday. The leaders are scheduled to meet each other at 3 pm today.
Since Thursday, television crews from Taiwan and around the world have been setting up their equipment at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, where the two leaders will meet, shake hands and hold a brief closed-door meeting.
Hotel staff restricted media access to tomorrow's main venue in the hotel's island ballroom, while setting up metal detectors and X-ray machines near the hallway leading to the room behind the front entrance.
Both sides have agreed to limit press participation to 400 reporters in total for security considerations, although many more non-authorised reporters are expected to be present on the outskirts of the meeting site.
Xi Arrives in Singapore
Meanwhile, Xi arrived in Singapore yesterday for a two-day visit that coincides with his meeting with Ma. According to Singaporean media, both sides will likely conclude several pacts that will increase the commercial ties between the two countries.
Ma, who arrived at around 10.30 am from Taiwan, is expected to be greeted by overseas Chinese groups in Singapore at the Four Seasons Hotel, where he will stop briefly before heading to the Shangri-La Hotel to meet Xi.
Opponents of the meeting from Taiwan will not be absent either, with some youth groups announcing they will fly to Singapore and deliver a letter of protest to Taipei's de facto embassy there.
Singapore's Brokering Role
Singapore has historically played a brokering role between Taiwan and China.
The first major semi-official talks between the two sides were held in Singapore in 1993, in which former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew served as a key go-between before the talks were held.
Ma was granted a brief trip to the island nation to pay his respects when Lee died earlier this year, notably garnering no rebuke from China, which is often critical of countries that host Taiwan's head of state.
Cross-strait Leaders Breaking the Ice after 66 Years
Today's meeting between the two leaders is the first of its kind since 1949, when the Nationalist government was driven from mainland China 66 years ago.
Taiwan's government has spent the last few days in lockdown mode in preparation for the meeting, briefing the press and attempting to convince the public of the rationale behind the talks.
Ma has said that the meeting between leaders comes at a crucial period of cross-strait relations, and that the time was ripe for its two leaders to finally meet.
The outgoing president has devoted his administration to creating new institutions to regularize the relations between the once openly antagonistic Cold War rivals.
Today's meeting will certainly colour Ma's historical legacy, but it remains to be seen whether his moves to usher in a new era in cross-strait relations will be met with positive reactions or deepening suspicion.