Chinese state media are lashing out at Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, saying his party's loss in recent legislative elections is no guarantee that he will stop pushing his pro-independence agenda.
Taiwanese opposition parties led by the Kuomintang, KMT, defeated a pro-independence coalition led by President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party in an election that centered on whether Taiwan should push toward formal independence.
Beijing, which considers the self-governed island a part of its territory, watched Saturday's election closely, with officials fearing a DPP victory would allow Mr. Chen to move the island closer to independence.
The KMT, on the other hand, is seen as more conciliatory toward Beijing, even though reunification with mainland China is no longer a key part of its platform.
But even though Beijing made no official comment on the DPP's failure to take a majority in parliament, state media on Monday published articles attacking Mr. Chen. One newspaper said the key question was still whether Mr. Chen would push for independence, despite his party's setback.
Beijing has threatened to attack Taiwan if it declares independence or is slow to reunite with the mainland. Taiwan has been ruled separately since Nationalist forces fled there after losing to the Communists on the mainland 55 years ago.
Polls show more Taiwanese now favor independence than before, yet most people prefer to keep the status quo, rather than declare full independence.
Politics Professor Joseph Cheng, of the City University of Hong Kong, says the KMT's less confrontational approach to ties with China was popular among voters, who fear moving too fast and damaging the growing economic ties between Taiwan and the mainland.
"While they are not interested in reunification, nor interested in the 'one country, two systems' formula offered by the Chinese leadership, they also prefer not to provoke the Chinese leaders so as to escalate the tension across the Taiwan Strait, which certainly implies economic setbacks and economic difficulties for the island," he said.
In contrast, President Chen has proposed a referendum on a new constitution in 2006, a measure that Beijing sees as a move toward independence and a provocation.
The United States has pledged to defend Taiwan against an attack by the mainland. But wary of getting drawn into a confrontation across the Taiwan Strait, the Bush administration has warned both Beijing and Taipei to avoid taking unilateral steps that would change the status quo.