Premier Wen Jiabao sounded more measured yesterday than at his previous annual press conferences. He still managed to cite traditional Chinese wisdom and even a 3,000-year-old Indian scripture to describe his feelings, but he paused a little longer than usual and chose his words carefully when responding to questions about former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa's resignation and, especially, the Anti-Secession Law passed yesterday. Unlike last year's press conference, when he cited passionate verse by Taiwanese poets, Mr Wen took pains this year to explain why the Anti-Secession Law was not 'a war bill' and why it was aimed at promoting peace. He outlined the positive aspects of the law and called for more economic and trade exchanges with Taipei. He won a round of applause from mainland reporters when he warned foreign countries - clearly referring to the United States and Japan - against interfering in the mainland's handling of Taiwan affairs, saying it was an internal matter. For Beijing, the law is aimed at curbing Taiwan's independence movement and proving to Taiwan and the international community that it is dead serious about attacking the island if it breaches the limits outlined in the law. The passage of the law will also help rally nationalistic support for President Hu Jintao, who cemented his authority by taking over former president Jiang Zemin's last official post as chairman of the state Central Military Commission on Sunday. Beijing expects a strong reaction to the law from Taiwan. The island's president, Chen Shui-bian, has urged supporters to take part in marches against the law in coming days. Mainland officials will be more concerned about the international reaction, particularly from the US, Japan and Europe. Initial reactions are considered mild. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said: 'We would have preferred that this law hadn't passed'. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on the eve of a trip to Asian countries, including the mainland, that the law would 'raise tensions'. Mainland officials are expected to launch a new round of lobbying in foreign capitals to explain the law and minimise international sympathy for Taiwan. In a sign that its lobbying efforts to date have paid off, Russia and Pakistan yesterday released statements expressing support for and understanding of the law. Beijing will soon announce more measures aimed at boosting trade and transport links with Taiwan, including buying agricultural produce from the island and clearing the way for regular direct passenger flights. Premier Wen indicated that Beijing would also announce other measures to benefit Taiwanese businessmen, but did not elaborate. Taiwanese media have described Beijing's carrot-and-stick policy as harder tactics getting harder and softer ones getting softer, attributing this to a more flexible approach adopted by Mr Hu. The next few months will be an interesting period to see whether the tactics work in Beijing's favour.