TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan's outgoing president and his successor on Wednesday emphasized the need for a smooth transition of power amid a slowdown in the island's high-tech economy and uncertainty over sensitive relations with China.
President Ma Ying-jeou began his meeting with Tsai Ing-wen by calling her January election victory along with that of her Democratic Progressive Party, a "new milestone" for Taiwanese democracy.
"Chairwoman Tsai is about to become first female president since the establishment of the Republic of China," Ma said. He used Taiwan's official name predating the government's relocation to the island in 1949 as the Communist Party swept to victory in the Chinese civil war.
The victory of the independence-leaning Democrats over Ma's China-friendly Nationalist Party has introduced new uncertainty over whether Beijing will agree to continue expanding contacts.
Tsai, who takes office May 20, has declined to meet Beijing's demand that she explicitly endorse its claim that Taiwan and mainland China are part of a single Chinese nation. She has stated that reviving economic growth and improving social welfare will be the main focuses of her administration, placing relatively little emphasis on relations with Beijing.
In Beijing, the spokesman for the Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office, An Fengshan, said ties would suffer if Tsai didn't endorse the principle recognizing the mainland and China that Beijing terms the "'92 consensus."
"The '92 consensus is the precedent and political foundation stone," An told reporters.
Without mentioning specific issues, Ma said Taiwan "faces many challenges from within and without," which call for cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties.
Tsai thanked Ma for his work as president and for agreeing to the meeting , which she said came a time of concern over the transition.
"I think the hopes of the people are very clear, that is regardless of the attacks and competition during the election campaign, we can all now ensure that this process of transferring power can be smooth," she said.
While neither directly mentioned relations with China, Ma said he appreciated the Taiwanese people giving him the opportunity over the past eight years to work toward "a free, just and prosperous Taiwan, a peaceful Taiwan Strait and friendly international environment."
Beijing claims the self-governing island of Taiwan as its own territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Relations between the two improved under the Nationalists, which governed Taiwan over the last eight years and promoted pro-China policies.