TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan's newly elected leader expressed interest Friday in considering a confederation with China--a relationship a visiting Chinese policy expert said Beijing would surely reject.
Meanwhile, a list of top Cabinet members in Taiwan's new government was announced, featuring prominent numbers of women, technocrats and academics who will be key in the push to improve relations with China and to clean up corruption.
One important post was given to Tsai Ying-wen, an expert on international trade who will head the Mainland Affairs Council, which handles China policy.
Tsai, who could be on the front line in possible talks with Beijing, may have been tapped for her experience in helping negotiate Taiwan's bid to join the World Trade Organization.
The idea of repairing a 51-year-old China-Taiwan split by forming a loose alliance between the two sides, similar to the British Commonwealth, has previously been proposed by Taiwanese thinkers. But President-elect Chen Shui-bian has not been a vocal proponent of the notion.
On Friday, Chen showed flexibility on the issue and said that creating a confederation might be a way to break the impasse between China and Taiwan, which separated amid civil war in 1949.
The issued was raised by presidential advisor Sun Yun-suan, whom Chen visited while making traditional courtesy calls to influential figures in the current government.
Chen said that he did not have the power to single-handedly determine the future of Taiwan and that there must be public consensus before Taiwan pressed ahead in trying to establish a confederation with the mainland. But he said it was an example of "new thinking that could bring a breakthrough."
But Yu Keli, a Chinese scholar with close connections to the Beijing regime, told reporters that the mainland would not agree to forming a confederation because it wouldn't suit China's current situation.
Most polls say that the majority of Taiwanese do not favor reunification with China so long as the mainland is ruled by a Communist government.
Chen said there was a "thick icy wall" between Taiwan and China, and he warned Beijing that continued threats would only make relations more difficult.
"I think the best way to break down the wall would be to rely on the warmth of the sun to melt it," Chen said, urging Beijing to use a softer approach.
Since his election last month, Chen has tried to be flexible concerning China and has made several goodwill gestures. He has offered to meet with Chinese leaders and hold discussions.
Beijing has refused to meet with Chen unless he agrees that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. Taiwan won't accept that condition, fearing that as a mere part of China the island wouldn't be treated as an equal at the bargaining table.
The 40-member Cabinet, picked by Chen and Premier-designate Tang Fei, includes several members of the Nationalist Party. Tang, the current defense minister, is a Nationalist.
Chen's small Democratic Progressive Party also won several appointments. DPP Secretary-General Yu Shyi-kun was named vice premier and lawmaker Yeh Chu-lan will be transportation minister.