In the less than three months Ma Ying-jeou has been Taiwan’s president, relations between Taiwan and China have arguably seen the most rapid advancement in the six-decade standoff between the two governments. Ma launched direct weekend charter flights between China and Taiwan for the first time, opened Taiwan to mainland tourists, eased restrictions on Taiwan investment on the mainland and approved measures that will allow mainland investors to buy Taiwan stocks. Yet the road towards his ultimate goal — peaceful relations with Beijing — is still fraught with political challenges. Ahead of his first international diplomatic trip, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, 58, spoke with TIME’s Zoher Abdoolcarim and Michael Schuman on relations with China, the economy and his domestic political problems.
TIME: It seems to us that you are taking quite a low-key approach on your overseas trip. Are you trying to make it easy for both the Chinese leadership and Washington?
MA: We have made quite a few accomplishments in our relations with the mainland, the United States and Japan in the last two and a half months. [After] many, many years, now the U.S., Japan and Southeast Asia can rest assured that hostilities or even confrontation is unlikely in the Taiwan Strait. This is the reason why when I will transit in the U.S. I don’t want to do things not compatible with the purpose of transit. Why? There is no need for me to do that. I don’t have to do things that will hurt the high level of trust.