Ma’s Inaugural Address as President of Taiwan

On May 20, Ma Ying-jeou was sworn in as the president of Taiwan (Republic of China), in an election that marks the first successive transfer of power in Taiwan’s fledgling democracy since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the 2000 presidential election. President Ma’s much awaited inaugural address outlined his vision for the future of cross-Strait relations, which was often turbulent during former DPP President Chen Shui-bian’s administration. In his address, Ma emphasized his campaign pledge to renew cross-Strait relations based on the principles of “no independence, no unification and no use of force,” and on the premise established under the so-called “1992 Consensus,” which supposedly acknowledges both sides’ acceptance of “One China” but with “different interpretations” (China Brief, March 14; Taipei Times, May 18).

Ma also reiterated Vice-President Vincent Siew’s appeal for both sides to “face reality, pioneer a new future, shelve controversies and pursue a win-win solution,” as the guiding premise to move cross-Strait relations forward. Vice-President Siew conveyed this appeal to Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Boao Forum held on Hainan Island on April 12 when the two first met. Ma added that he believes China and Taiwan can “strike a balance as each pursues its own interests … The normalization of economic and cultural relations is the first step to a win-win solution.” This was an affirmative statement that was widely considered Ma’s response to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s “16-word maxim,” issued during Hu’s meeting with former KMT Chairman Lien Chan on April 29, that China and Taiwan should “seek to build mutual trust, shelve disputes, seek common ground while reserving differences, and create ‘win-win’ development.” Ma concluded that Hu’s “views are very much in line with our own.”

Ma also proclaimed that “in resolving cross-Strait issues, what matters is not sovereignty but core values and way of life,” which signals a stark departure from the DPP line of emphasizing Taiwan’s sovereignty in dealing with China in cross-Strait relations. The issue of sovereignty has been a sore spot in cross-Strait relations as China claims sovereignty over the island.

Wu Po-hsiung, chairman of the KMT, is scheduled to visit China on May 26 upon an invitation from Hu. Wu will be the first ruling party chief from Taiwan to travel to China (China Post, May 19).