Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday called upon Beijing to improve its human rights record, treat dissidents fairly and open up to greater popular participation in the political process.
Large scale weekend protests and plummeting approval ratings marked the lead-up to Ma's formal beginning of his second term of Sunday; many among the protesters demanded his resignation for not generating more employment and trying to push through tariff hikes in petrol and electricity.
Delivering his inaugural second-term address, and later at an international press conference, Ma tried to calm frayed public nerves by repeatedly talking about improving communication with people and promising more transparency in governance.
On China, he said there should be more opportunities for dialogue between the two countries focusing on democracy, human rights and rule of law.
Commenting on the case of blind activist Chen Guangcheng, -- which he seemed to have followed keenly -- Ma said he had always taken up issues related to human rights with Beijing be it after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 or the recent cases - after he took over as President in 2008 - related noble winner Liu Xiaobo or artist Ai Weiwei.
Ma said he wasn't basing his ideas of human rights on western principals but on traditional Chinese cultural values like loving and caring for each other.
Steady improvement in human rights and the rule of law would contribute to further reducing the "the feeling of otherness between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Straits," Ma said at the inaugural address.
On cross-strait relations with China, Ma said his policies were guided by Taiwan's Constitution. At his address, the President reiterated the "1992 consensus". He said the consensus means that each side - People's Republic of China and Republic of China (Taiwan) - "acknowledges the existence of 'one China' but maintains its own interpretation of what that means."
"Our cross-strait policy must maintain the status quo of 'no unification, no independence and no use of force,'" Ma said, offering little hope to many in mainland China's ruling Communist Party of China who hopes for reunification.
He ruled out a peace agreement with China, saying it would require strong public support and a referendum mandate and he does not see any urgency in the matter.
The approach to relations with China was to work "on the economy first and politics later, and on the easier tasks first and the more difficult ones later."