Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has defended his policy of rapprochement with mainland China, pointing out that the closer ties have helped the island’s economy and security.
China is Taiwan’s largest trade partner, “an economic reality that cannot be… changed,” Ma told the Wall Street Journal.
In an interview, Ma noted that his administration has brought relations across the Taiwan Strait to their best in decades, though they aren’t without problems.
One source of friction recently was China’s refusal to allow Taiwan to be a founding member of Beijing’s newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Ma said his government had applied to join the bank under the name “Chinese Taipei”, but the initial request had been rejected.
Beijing later said it welcomes Taipei to apply to be a regular member under an “appropriate name”.
“I think it was most likely due to political considerations,” Ma told the Journal.
Still, he said, economic ties have flourished and tensions have eased.
“We have transformed our relationship with mainland China from one marked by confrontation and conflict into one marked by negotiation and rapprochement,” said Ma, who is entering his eighth and last year in office as Taiwan’s president.
He urged his successor to continue the policy of reconciliation.
“Cross-strait policies are vital and must not be taken lightly. No major changes should be made, especially on key issues, Ma said.
He urged Taiwan’s legislature to pass a services agreement his administration reached with Beijing.
The pact was shelved last year after protests by the student-led Sunflower Movement.
Failure on the services pact risks setting Taiwan back, Ma warned.
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