Thanks to the richness of Chinese linguistics, Hu Jintao and James Soong Chu-yu have agreed to a new 'two sides, one China' formula to break the political impasse across the Taiwan Strait. The formula, which will most likely be dubbed the '2005 consensus', could pave the way for a resumption of bilateral talks between the governments in Taipei and Beijing. However, the new formula is not in fact new and is just another redefinition of the '1992 consensus' and one-China principle, which Beijing has said Taipei must recognise before direct talks can resume. It is apparently aimed at making it easier for Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian to accept because he has repeatedly rejected the '1992 consensus'. Mr Chen will be under mounting international and domestic pressure to react positively to the offer. During the next few days, observers will likely be carefully sifting through Mr Chen's remarks for clues and signs, although he is set to make a formal response on May 20, the anniversary of the start of his second-term presidency. Whatever his responses are, Mr Chen has been put in a difficult position. He risks deepening a political divide in Taiwan if he flatly rejects the offer, but if he embraces it, he will further alienate the hard-line independence supporters within his party. Being a smart lawyer and politician, Mr Chen should grasp the opportunity to welcome the offer and open official dialogue with mainland. By taking such a move, Mr Chen could regain the initiative in steering the complicated political relations across the Taiwan Strait and would greatly reduce the possibility of a military conflict. The new formula signals that Mr Hu is willing to be more flexible in dealing with Mr Chen, part of a significant shift in Beijing's policies towards Taiwan. During his meeting with Mr Soong yesterday, televised live on the mainland and in Taiwan, Mr Hu appeared to have directed most of his remarks at Mr Chen. Among other things, he repeated his offer that Beijing would talk with anyone or any party as long as they recognised the one-China principle and the '1992 consensus'. Mr Chen called Mr Hu a 'formidable' opponent in a television interview in Taiwan on Sunday, and Mr Hu has now succeeded in outsmarting Mr Chen by taking the upper hand in the eyes of the international community and Chinese throughout the world. Despite the media hype over the historical significance of the meetings with Mr Soong and Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan, Beijing's biggest achievement is to have set up a credible united front to contain the island's pro-independence movement and rallying support for a return to the original status quo across the strait. As Mr Soong pointed out at a press briefing after his meeting with Mr Hu, the agreement could help secure peace across the strait - but a peaceful reunification is still far off.