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Taiwan president urges successor to maintain relations with China

Outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou has called for Taiwan's next leader to maintain cross-strait relations with Beijing. The current frontrunner in the presidential race has taken a more critical stance toward China.

In a National Day address on Saturday -- his last before his final term comes to an end -- Ma pushed for friendly cross-strait relations with China, urging his successor to maintain the status quo that has defined the countries' relationship for the past several years.

"Seven years ago, our ties with China...were caught in a vicious cycle, but we've turned it into a virtuous cycle," Ma said.

The current Taiwanese president, who has drawn both praise and criticism for his insistence on strengthening ties between the self-governed Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, must step down in May, after the next presidential election to be held in January.

"The 1992 Consensus, which is supported by more than half of the population, is the base of the virtuous cycle," the president said. He urged the next leader to maintain that status quo, saying it "can't be taken for granted."

The current frontrunner in the presidential race, Tsai Ing-wen,

is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which does not accept the 1992 Consensus. That agreement maintained a truce between the two countries, paving the way for improved relations in trade and investment. Tsai has said she will maintain the consensus, however.

Fraught relations

Taiwan -- officially the Republic of China -- has been self-governed since 1949, after it lost a civil war against the communists. Beijing considers the island a part of its territory, and reunification with the mainland as inevitable.

A recent survey found that 47 percent of Taiwanese support the DPP, which last ruled from 2000 to 2008, a period marked by heightened tensions between the two countries.

Under Taipei's constitution, Taiwan and China are considered part of

"one China

.

blc/ (dpa, AP)

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