Ma takes office as Taiwan president

New leader vows closer economic ties with China but says no unification talks.

    Chen Shui-bian, centre, makes way for Ma after eight years as president  [AFP]

    Ma's running mate Vincent Siew was sworn in as vice-president, followed by the cabinet, led by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan.
     
    No unification talks
     
    Ma v Chen on China ties

    Ma Ying-jeou - new president

    Proposes agreement with Beijing to launch direct weekend flights by July and direct daily flights within a year

    Proposes an agreement allowing an initial 3,000 Chinese tourists daily into Taiwan and 10,000 daily after four years

    Wants to create a China-Taiwan common market similar to the European Union

    Wants to start formal talks with China towards signing of peace agreement, but no discussion of unification

     

    Chen Shui-bian - former president

    Introduced education policy that teaches history, geography, and culture from a Taiwan perspective

    Promoted use of Hokkien and Hakka, Chinese dialects commonly used in Taiwan

    Eliminated the name "China" from government companies and sought UN membership for island under the name Taiwan

    Turned down Beijing's offer of cross-Taiwan Strait peace accord under the "one-China" framework, dismissing the idea as part of scheme by China to annex Taiwan

     

    In contrast to the independence bent of Chen's Democratic Progressive party, Ma's Nationalist party or Kuomintang, has never formally renounced a desire for eventual unification with China.


    But in a break with the Nationalist old guard, Ma has vowed not to negotiate with Beijing about unification during his term in office.

     

    This could stretch to 2016 if he is re-elected to a second four-year term.

    Chen leaves office after two four-year terms under the threat of being indicted in a high-profile corruption scandal that has already drawn in his wife.

     

    Beijing regularly vilified Chen as trying to achieve Taiwan's independence by stealth.

     

    Taiwan split from China during a civil war in 1949 and although autonomously governed, the mainland maintains that reunification will take place eventually, by military force if necessary.

     

    Chang Wu-yueh, a China expert with Taipei's Tamkang University, told The Associated Press that Ma was likely to stress the cultural and historical ties between Taiwan and the mainland.

     

    That would represent a major departure from Chen, who de-emphasised Chinese history and culture in Taiwanese schools, eliminated the name "China" from a slew of government companies and sought UN membership for the island under the name Taiwan.

    Boosting economic ties

     

    Ma, Taipei's Harvard-educated former mayor, won 58 per cent of the vote in the March 22 elections.

     

    His election platform was based on seeking to tie Taiwan's powerful but lagging economy more closely to China's economic boom.

     

    He has proposed beginning direct commercial flights across the 160km-wide Taiwan Strait and opening Taiwan's doors to a massive influx of Chinese tourists.

    He has also promised to work towards a peace treaty with Beijing, but has not provided details.


    Reports in Taiwan suggest Ma will appeal for a resumption of high-level
    dialogue that was suspended by China in 1995 in protest against a landmark US visit by Lee Teng-hui, who was then Taiwan's president.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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