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Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou says China has his policies with "new pragmatism ... new sophistication".

TAIPEI, Taiwan: – Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou this week defended his administration’s policies on China, one year after he came to office.

He said the policies had not compromised Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Relations between the two political enemies have thawed since Ma came to office in May 2007.

Ma succeeded Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was more confrontational in his approach to cross-strait relations during his eight years in office.

Ma’s Kuomintang adminstration allows direct shipping and flight link between the two nations. Chinese tourists arriving in Taiwan has increased from a handful to about 3000 daily and the two nations have signed a number of economic agreements.

“If sovereignty was lost, I can get it back,” Ma said at a press conference. ““But nobody can tell me exactly what was lost,” he said, the Taipei Times reported.

His statement was an apparent response to DDP claims that Ma’s policies were moving Taiwan closer to reunification with China.

Both countries split during a civil war in 1949 and China says that Taiwan is a part of its territory with no right to a sovereign government.

The DPP on Sunday held protest marches in Taipei and the southern city of Koashiung to object to what they called warming relations with China.

“We are here to say no to Ma Ying-jeou. Ma gambles away Taiwan’s sovereignty in exchange for short-term economic interests from China … We will not allow Taiwan’s destiny and future to be decided by China,” DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen told protestors.

She said that the march was the first in a series of protests against Ma and that the DPP would consider impeaching the president, Taipei Times reported.

"I am Taiwanese not Chinese" reads this sign at an opposition protest on Sunday. (Photo: Taipei Times)

“The most serious problem with Ma and his government is that they do not care about the country’s sovereignty and status, and so they could not feel the public’s anger at the rally,” DPP spokesperson Cheng Wen-tsang said.

Ma told reporters on Monday that while the he welcomed the opposition’s criticism, the DPP must be rational and practical.

He said his policies could be improved, adding that he hoped DDP chairman Tsai would agree to talk instead of insisting on a debate. He said a consensus would benefit both parties.

The DPP during the eight years ending 2007, tried to return Taiwan to the United Nations under the name “Taiwan”.

Only 24 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, and the Pacific recognize the government in Taipei. The United Nation views Taiwan, whose official name is “Republic of China” (ROC), as being represented by China.

Taiwan participates in most international organizations using the name “Chinese Taipei”.

The country’s health minister was seated as an observer at the World Health Assembly (WHA). It was the nation’s first appearance at the decision-making body of the World Health organization in 31 years.

The WHA seat was transferred from the government in Taipei to the government in Beijing in 1971.

China this month announced that it was had dropped its objections to Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the WHA.

“…the current arrangement reflects our overall concern and good will toward Taiwan compatriots, and this promotes the cross-strait relationship and the peaceful development of relations,” Mao Qunan, spokesman for China’s Health Ministry, said, according to a New York Times.

Ma has relaxed controls on Taiwanese investment in China and plans to allow Chinese to invest and buy property in Taiwan.

He said his measured approach to rival China had led to Taiwan’s participation at a UN, the China Post reported.

“Our pragmatism and flexibility in handling the WHA issue has won the respect and sympathy of many countries. That is our source of gaining dignity. If we’d used the tactic of confrontation, we would have been considered a troublemaker,” Ma said.

“In one year, we’ve transformed the Taiwan Strait from a dangerous flash point to a conduit for peace and prosperity,” the Taipei Times quoted Ma as saying during a separate press conference with foreign correspondent this week.

“[China has] demonstrated a very clear sophistication and flexibility in their policy. We certainly appreciate their new pragmatism, their new sophistication,” Ma said, according to the publication.

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