President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday pledged to build on three years of detente with China to deepen Taiwan’s economic integration with the region, even as he urged Beijing to recognise the existence of the Republic of China (ROC) on the 100th anniversary of its founding.
His comments echoed Chinese President Hu Jintao’s a day earlier on continuing “close exchanges and cooperation” between Beijing and Taipei despite China’s opposition to Taiwan independence, reflecting warming ties between the two sides.
“Cross-strait peace is the prerequisite for the prosperous development of Taiwan,” Mr Ma said at grand celebrations to mark the centenary of the Oct 10, 1911 uprising that overthrew the Qing dynasty and established the ROC.
“Over the past three years, the government has pushed forward cross-strait relations and reduced tensions in the Taiwan Strait… it will continue to leverage on the mainland market and accelerate the forging of free trade or economic cooperation pacts with other countries.”
The comments underscore the re-election platform of Mr Ma, who is seeking a second four-year term in January, with increasingly warm economic ties with China the highlight of his report card.
An Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in June last year is seen as one of the most significant breakthroughs in cross-strait ties since Mr Ma’s Kuomintang (KMT), which founded the ROC under Dr Sun Yat-sen’s leadership, fled to Taiwan following a civil war with the communists who now rule mainland China.
As trade between the two sides flourishes, Taiwan is seeking to ink free trade pacts with Singapore, Indonesia and other regional countries with an aim to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement among Asia-Pacific economies, within 10 years.
Last month, it signed an investment pact with Japan.
But the political status of Taiwan remains a thorn in cross-strait ties. The KMT continues to claim that the ROC is the legitimate government of the whole of China while Beijing maintains that it has been replaced by the People’s Republic of China, which the Chinese Communist Party created in 1949 after driving out the KMT.
In an indication of the impasse, both sides separately commemorated the centenary of the 1911 uprising, or what is now also known as the Xinhai Revolution.
Rebels loyal to Dr Sun revolted against the Qing military in Wuchang, in the south-eastern city of Wuhan of Hubei province.
The uprising quickly spread to other cities in China and by Jan 1, 1912, the ROC was born.
The Chinese Communist Party marked the date with a low-key ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on Sunday, without any mention of the ROC.
President Hu called for the peaceful reunification of China and Taiwan and repeated China’s opposition to Taiwanese independence.
Still, he added that he wished to continue “close exchanges and cooperation” between Beijing and Taipei.
In Taipei, thousands watched an early morning flag-raising on the plaza in front of the presidential office.
This was followed by a grand parade complete with a rendition of Taiwan’s anthem led by Madam Chen Shu-chu – the vegetable seller who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people for her unstinting donations to charity – floats and a precision parachute jumping performance.
In the afternoon, the military staged a parade at the Liberty Square at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
Rounding off the day of festivities was a rock musical, Dreamer, orchestrated by famed playwright Stan Lai and performed in the central city of Taichung.
“The existence of the Republic of China is a present tense rather than a past tense,” Mr Ma said in his speech. “Mainland authorities should recognise this fact as they commemorate the Xinhai Revolution.”