Taiwan’s new independence-leaning president Tsai Ing-wen treaded carefully around the thorny issue of relations with China in her inaugural address yesterday, emphasizing the importance of two decades of growing exchanges without mentioning the one-China principle fundamental to Beijing.
Ms Tsai said in her speech that she respected the “joint acknowledgements and understandings” reached between the sides at a landmark 1992 meeting seen by China as underpinning all subsequent contacts and agreements.
However, she made no explicit mention of the concept that Taiwan is a part of China. Beijing claims the self-governing island as its own territory and says failing to endorse the one-China principle would destabilise relations.
In Beijing, the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office issued a statement noting Ms Tsai’s reference to the 1992 meeting, but saying she had taken an “ambiguous stance” over the nature of the relationship between the sides.
Her failure to explicitly endorse what China calls the “’92 consensus” embodying the principle of one-China, or to offer a “specific proposal to ensure the peaceful and stable development of relations between the sides” had left the question unanswered, the office said.
The statement, issued about five hours after Ms Tsai’s speech, also reaffirmed China’s rigid opposition to Taiwan’s formal independence, stating that: “Today, our determination to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity is unshaken, our capability is strengthened and we will resolutely contain any `Taiwan independence’ separatist acts or plots in whatever form they take.”
In her address, Ms Tsai called for Taipei and Beijing to “set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides.”
She said her administration would “work to maintain peace and stability” in relations between the sides. However, she added that Taiwan’s democratic system and the will of its 23 million people must be respected in the course of cross-strait dialogue.