Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has launched a nationwide torch relay to highlight the island's bid to join the United Nations.
Mr Chen (c) has applied for Taiwan's UN entry several times
Mr Chen jogged several hundred metres holding the flaming torch, kicking off its 11-day, 1,200 km (756 mile) journey around the island.
The president wants a national vote on whether the country should apply to join the UN under the name Taiwan.
Past attempts to join as the Republic of China have been blocked by Beijing.
China says that Taiwan is part of its territory, although the two have been separately governed since 1949.
Taiwan held a UN seat until 1971, as the Republic of China, but that seat was then given to China. Since then, Beijing has blocked its attempts to rejoin using that name.
Since he became president in 2000, Mr Chen has increasingly sought to emphasise Taiwan's separateness from China.
Ruled by separate governments since end of Chinese civil war in 1949
China considers the island part of its territory
China has offered a "one country, two systems" solution, like Hong Kong
Most people in Taiwan support status quo
In recent months, he has worked to highlight the island's bid to join the UN.
"Becoming a UN member under Taiwan's own name is the mainstream national consensus," he said before beginning his jog.
"China and Taiwan are two separate states on either side of the Taiwan Strait."
Top lawmakers joined hundreds of people in the capital, Taipei, for the start of the relay. Taiwan is missing out on the Olympic torch relay because of differences with China over conditions.
The president has scheduled the referendum for 22 March 2008, when presidential elections are set to take place.
Mr Chen is due to step down and will not contest the elections. The ruling party candidate, Frank Hsieh, will face Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Kuomintang.
On Wednesday, Mr Ma also launched his own bicycle relay in support of UN membership - but under the official name, the Republic of China.
However, the admission of new members to the UN requires approval from the Security Council, where China has a veto, and Beijing remains opposed to Taiwanese membership under any name.
It has threatened to use force if Taiwan moves towards formal independence.