Taiwan's Ma expects stable ties under new China leader

 Published: 1/12/2012 10:17:00 AM GMT
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Taiwan's Ma expects stable ties under new China leader

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said Thursday ties with China are unlikely to change despite an imminent, once-in-a-decade generational change 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 power transition 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.

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.

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