Friday, 20 May 2016

Taiwan's New Chapter

Tsai Ing-wen is Taiwan's first female president who was inagurated today
Today is a historic day with the inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's first female president.

She wore a straight-forward white jacket and black slacks, which reflected her speech that aimed to get Taiwan back on track and become less reliant on the mainland, much to the ire of Beijing.

Tsai campaigned on this platform which won her and the Democratic Progressive Party a decisive victory, and so she was keen to continue on this theme. She said Taiwan would pursue a new economic model of sustainable development based on the core values of innovation, employment and equitable distribution.

She also stressed the importance to building ties regionally and globally.

Former president Ma Ying-jeou looking sombre with Tsai
However what everyone was listening for was how Tsai would deal with relations with Beijing.

While she acknowledged discussion between the two sides, she stopped short of endorsing the so-called 1992 consensus, where at the time, China and Taiwan agreed they were part of "one China", with each side having its own interpretation of what that meant.

Agreed upon by the previous Kuomintang government, it was the basis on which the two sides began having warming relations, resulting in the start of direct flights, more tourism and investment.

However in the last few years, many Taiwanese felt that former President Ma Ying-jeou sold out and they were fed up with being overwhelmed with mainland tourists, a similar refrain with Hong Kong.

As a result, the Taiwanese wanted someone who would take a stand against the mainland and Tsai was the chosen one.

Nevertheless, the point of contention is that Tsai doesn't endorse the so-called 1992 consensus, instead recognizes it as a "historic fact", which annoyed Beijing immensely.

Paraphernalia featuring Tsai's face on inauguration day
"The two governing parties across the strait must set aside the baggage of history and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides," she said.

This led to Beijing issuing a statement via Xinhua, saying Tsai did not go far enough in acknowledging the so-called 1992 consensus, calling her remarks "an incomplete examination paper", as if she were a petulant student.

Since her election, Beijing has taken a more aggressive stance on Tsai and her administration, and renew challenges to the island's recognition by 22 states including the Vatican.

Tsai seems ready to deal with Beijing's combative style with her own way of doing things. The former law professor and trade negotiator knows exactly what she's up against and it remains to be seen how deftly she deals with the hisses and criticisms across the Taiwan Strait.

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