Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou struck a cautious note yesterday in delivering his cross-strait policy that promises little change, as he began his second term amid protests across the island.
Analysts said the leader's cross-strait policy for the next four years, unveiled during his inaugural speech, was similar to that of his first term, indicating high-profile political dialogues, such as the signing of a peace pact, would be unlikely.
But Ma did respond, in a way, to mainland hopes that he would clearly spell out his recognition of the 'one China' principle.
Such recognition was considered a type of political payback for a spate of economic sweeteners offered by Beijing over the past four years to help the Ma administration improve the island's lacklustre economy.
He pointed to the last amendment to the island's constitution, from two decades ago, that says: 'The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been defined as 'one Republic of China, two areas', which he said had remained unchanged since the administrations of his predecessors Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. He also stressed that, 'when we speak of one China, naturally it is the Republic of China'.
That reference differs somewhat from the concept of 'one country, two areas' made by the honorary chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang, Wu Poh-hsiung, during his meeting with President Hu Jintao in late March. In that meeting, Wu told Hu that both Taiwan and the mainland were two areas under one country. Beijing, which has been pushing for the 'one China' principle since the end of the civil war in 1949, reportedly gave tacit approval of Wu's remarks. But the concept sparked angry protests from the island's pro-independence camp, which suspected that Ma was trying to hand over the island to the mainland.
'Although the pro-independence camp warned Ma against spelling out this concept in his inaugural speech, Ma, in a safe way, still brought this concept out in his speech,' said Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international relations and strategic studies at Tamkang University in Taipei.
While Ma's words served as a response to mainland hopes for increased mutual trust and deeper relations, there was little the pro-independence camp could do in terms of accusing Ma of selling out Taiwan, Wang said.
Ma said at a news conference after his inauguration ceremony that he had no plans to negotiate a peace pact with the mainland, 'as there is no urgency for this at the moment'. The pro-independence camp has warned Ma against holding political talks with Beijing, believing they would lead to the island's return to the mainland.
Ma reiterated that his cross-strait policy would maintain the status quo of 'no unification, no independence and no use of force', and he promoted peaceful cross-strait development on the basis of the 1992 consensus, whereby each side acknowledges the existence of 'one China' but maintains its own interpretation of what that means.
Meanwhile yesterday, thousands of protesters rallied in various parts of Taiwan, including an area near the Presidential Office where Ma was taking his oath. They threw eggs at a poster of Ma, denouncing policies which they said had made their lives miserable.