President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended his administration’s policy to foster more open cross-strait relations, insisting that deeper and stronger ties between Taipei and Beijing would not affect Taiwan’s sovereignty.
In an interview with BBC World News, Ma described China as both a risk and an opportunity, saying that Taipei’s interactions with Beijing are “inevitable” because China has grown to be the second-largest economy in the world.
“Taiwan should not isolate itself anymore. Instead, we should think about how to reasonably open up to mainland. It’s the only way we can influence mainland China and make it understand that maintaining peaceful relations with Taiwan is beneficial for the two sides,” he said.
When asked to comment about concerns regarding how the increasing number of Chinese tourists to Taiwan would affect the nation’s identity, the president said more Chinese tourists would not influence the nation’s autonomy, reiterating that his administration’s goals are to minimize the threats posed by China, while maximizing the opportunities China presented.
Improving cross-strait relations has been one of the major policies for the Ma administration since his presidency began three years ago. The government has resumed cross-strait talks and signed 15 cross-strait agreements, including the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) last year, which is aimed at facilitating economic ties with China.
Shortly after the third anniversary of his inauguration, the Ma administration also plans to open the nation to Chinese free individual travelers later this month after the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan in groups reached an average of 4,000 a day.
While challenging the former Democratic Progressive Party government’s policies that isolated Taiwan from not only China, but other countries as well, Ma acknowledged that China remained a great threat to Taiwan as it continued to increase its military might and missiles aimed at Taiwan.
He said his government would face that threat with great caution, while pursuing peaceful and stable cross-strait relations.
Ma said that Taiwan’s security could be defended by systematizing cross-strait relations, increasing the nation’s visibility in the international community and maintaining small but capable national defense abilities.
“As the two sides of the Taiwan Strait develop peaceful relations through trade, investment, cultural and educational exchanges, any unilateral attempts to change the status quo would come with a heavy price,” he said.
Ma promised that under his leadership and in the face of both opportunities and threats from China, Taiwan would continue to pursue improved cross-strait relations while developing strategies that would allow Taiwan to maintain its security and prosperity at the same time.
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