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July 27, 2017

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Xi Jinping might be more flexible on Taiwan: expert

WASHINGTON -- China may become more flexible toward Taiwan in the next three years under the expected leadership of Xi Jinping, an American expert on China issues said Thursday.

Alice Miller from the Hoover Institution pointed to Xi's long 17-year tenure in Fujian province, which has a close relationship with Taiwan, and the province's tendency to focus on a more pragmatic and flexible array of issues.

"It seems to me that Xi might in fact have a more flexible attitude in how to treat cross-strait relations, especially now at the beginning of Ma Ying-jeou's second term (as president of the Republic of China)," Miller said during a panel discussion on the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Xi is tipped to succeed Hu Jintao as general secretary of the CPC during the National Congress scheduled to open Nov. 8. This will pave the way for Xi to replace Hu as the country's president during the National People's Congress slated for next March.

Miller predicted that Beijing will see the need to consolidate its relations with Taipei that have grown since Ma first assumed the presidency in 2008, as Taiwan heads into the uncertainty of the 2016 presidential election.

"To build those bridges, consolidate these links, even ensure to establish the real political dialogue ... Perhaps Xi is the guy to do it," she added.

Beijing will display a certain degree of flexibility, although quite limited, on its "one China" principle, according to Miller.

In fact, she said, the word "China" itself can be considered flexible because the concept of the word "changes all the time."

Although Miller said there is "quite powerful constraint" regarding how far Xi's leadership can go, she nevertheless expressed optimism about Xi's handling of relations with Taiwan.

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