Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou promised to continue his Beijing-friendly policies but made no mention of possible cross-strait political dialogue as the island celebrated the Double Tenth national day yesterday.
In an address to hundreds of foreign and local dignitaries, Ma promised to expand interactions with Beijing by pushing for the revision of a law that would allow the two sides to set up representative offices in each other's territory.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, the island's top planning body for mainland policy, has been given the task of revising the relevant law, the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, to enable such offices to be set up. The revisions will then be sent to the island's legislature for review and approval.
Ma said the establishment of representative offices would help serve the needs of businesses, students and the general public on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
"This will be the key focus of our work on cross-strait relations as we move forward," Ma said.
He said his government would continue efforts to expand interactions across the Taiwan Strait 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.
Ma, leader of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang, was first elected president in 2008 and re-elected for another four-year term in January.
His policy of engaging Beijing has been responsible for a warming of ties between Taipei and Beijing, which had been bitter political rivals since the end of a civil war in 1949.
His support of the "1992 consensus" has facilitated talks between the two sides, leading to the signing of 18 bilateral agreements covering non-political co-operation in areas such as trade, travel and transport.
Beijing insists there is only one China, of which the island is a province. It says that as long as Taiwan abides by that principle, it is willing to hold talks of any kind with Taipei. Improving ties have recently seen Beijing begin to push for political dialogue with Taipei, something it hopes could eventually lead to cross-strait reunification.
Ma also reiterated the island's sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which are also claimed by Beijing and Tokyo. He also upheld Taiwan's sovereignty over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, claimed wholly or in part by Taiwan, the mainland, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Ma called for peaceful negotiations on the territorial disputes and co-operation by all claimants in exploring for resources in affected waters.
The main focus of Ma's address yesterday was on his pledge to greatly improve the island's economy. Taiwan's economic growth is limping along at about 2 per cent a year, far short of the 6 per cent Ma promised when campaigning for his first term.
He said ways to lift the economy included transforming the island's industrial structure, raising wage levels, removing investment barriers and creating jobs.
Ma said he would also ask the government and the private sector to work together to increase investment in the island's tourism sector and reach a goal of attracting 10 million visitors from abroad by 2016.