by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Jan 12, 2012
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday ties with China are unlikely to change despite an imminent, once-in-a-decade power transition in Beijing.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is widely seen as being groomed to take over as president and communist party leader from Hu Jintao during a gradual generational change taking place this year and next.
"I have watched closely the style and policy direction of China's future leader since I took office," said Ma, who became president in 2008 and is seeking a second four-year term in elections on Saturday.
"In general I don't see any significant difference from the current leader, especially in cross-strait ties," he told foreign reporters in Taipei.
Ma took office on a Beijing-friendly platform after eight years of tense ties with China under the Democratic Progressive Party, which favours independence for the island which Beijing regards as part of its territory.
"The current situation is acceptable and even though we are not 100 percent satisfied, it improved remarkably from the eight years before I took office and it is going forward. There is no reason to make major changes," he said in a swipe at the DPP ahead of Saturday's election which is seen as too close to call.
Ma dismissed criticism that he had made Taiwan too reliant on its giant neighbour with policies promoting closer trade and tourism.
"I have been very careful in making every move. What I have done was simply to make up for the lost eight years. Taiwan and China now gradually resume normal relations between two major trade partners," he said.
Ma argued that China still accounted for about 40 percent of Taiwan's total trade under his term while the island has also boosted trade with the United States, Southeast Asia and other emerging economies.
"We do not put all our eggs in one basket with our policies... We are not leaning on China to a point of no return," he said.
Ma renewed calls on China not to meddle in the presidential elections, amid reports of Beijing allegedly rallying Taiwanese businessmen based on the mainland to return to vote for him.
"I have urged China not to interfere in the elections by any means... We welcome and encourage Taiwanese businessmen to come back to vote to exercise their civil rights but we have no say in who they will vote for."
Taiwan has governed itself since the end of a civil war in 1949 but China still claims sovereignty and has threatened to invade should the island declare formal independence.
Ma all but ruled out the possibility of making any breakthrough in China ties, such as sealing a peace deal or making a historic visit to the mainland, if he were elected for a second and final four-year term.
Ma stressed that he would only move ahead for a peace agreement with the approval of both the parliament and the public via a referendum.
"We are cautiously evaluating whether to sign the peace agreement or not," Ma said. "At present we don't see there is such an opportunity in my next term. There might be some chance in the future."
A peace treaty is widely considered one of the thorniest areas in the complex Taiwan-China ties as it would involve sensitive sovereignty issues that the two sides have put on hold to focus on economic exchanges.
Ma said he had no current plan to go to China and that the chance of a future visit was "very slim" even if he secured a second term.
"I am the president of the Republic of China (Taiwan's formal name) no matter where I go, I won't change my identity to visit mainland as the Taiwanese people won't accept that."
Chinese media usually refer to Ma as the leader, rather than the president, of Taiwan.
Taiwan News at SinoDaily.com
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Dramatic vote looms in Taiwan as China, US watch
Taipei (AFP) Jan 12, 2012
Taiwan goes to the polls on Saturday in a knife-edge presidential election that could shape both the high-tech trading island's economic outlook and relations with Beijing and Washington. President Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party is facing off against the China-sceptic opposition's Tsai Ing-wen, who is bidding to become the first female leader of Taiwan's 23 milli ... read more
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