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No formal deals will be signed when Taiwan’s leader Ma Ying-jeou sits down with China’s President Xi Jinping in Singapore for the historic meeting on Saturday, but the two leaders still have a lot to discuss. Here are three issues that are likely to be on the top of Ma’s agenda after seven decades without a face-to-face meeting.

Get voters excited
Voters in Taiwan will head to the polls on Jan. 16 for presidential and legislative elections, with Ma’s party, the Kuomintang (KMT), trailing in the polls. A meeting of this historic magnitude might provide a much needed bump for the KMT’s candidate Eric Chu, who has fallen behind Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen.

Cement a legacy
Calling the first talks with China’s leader in decades is sure to cast Ma as a regional peacekeeper. As a result, some see the meeting as Ma’s chance to secure his legacy before his departure from office. “This is his page in history,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Centre for China Studies.

A balancing act on the economy
Despite ongoing political disputes, Taiwan and China have bolstered economic ties over the past few years. But as business relations with the mainland have eased, some Taiwanese are “worried [about] the ‘invasion’ of China’s economic power,” said Yang Tai-shuenn, political-science professor at the Chinese Culture University in Taipei. Successful talks will require striking the right balance between the public and commerce.

Read next: 3 Things China Wants From Taiwan

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Write to Mark Rivett-Carnac at

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