Taiwan inaugurates first female president amid warnings from China
Taiwan on Friday inaugurated as its first female President Tsai Ing-wen, a candidate from the pro-Independence Democratic Progressive Party, ushering in what has been called in China a new “era of uncertainty”. Ms Tsai took the oath of office at the presidential palace in Taipei after winning a landslide victory in January on a wave of antiChina sentiment as the island faces economic headwinds.
Beijing-sceptic Tsai raised her right arm as she read the oath in front of Taiwan’s national flag and a portrait of Sun Yat-sen, who founded the Republic of China before its government fled to Taiwan as the Communists seized power in 1949.
China claims Taiwan and says it will one day be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary. It carried out military exercises on its southern coast, across the strait from Taiwan, earlier this month.
Beijing has warned that delicate relations between the sides will suffer unless Ms Tsai explicitly endorses China’s stance that the island and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.
Ms Tsai has avoided doing so, but has promised to maintain the “status quo” between the two sides. Following her inauguration she said Taiwan would help maintain peace and stability with China.
“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 outside the presidential office in Taipei after being sworn in.
Taiwan elects first female president in defiance of China warning Play! 01:03
The inauguration was largely snubbed in Chinese media, but a commentary in the nationalist Global Times on Friday said it marked “a new era for a crossStraits region that is characterized by uncertainty.”
“Certain people are still holding on to the fantasy that ‘soft independence’ might be workable,” said the paper, which has close links to the Communist Party.
“Perhaps a new round of contention is inevitable to completely drive the topic of Taiwan independence away while making the one-China principle the one and only starting point to maintain the status quo.”
J Michael Cole, a Taiwan expert from the University of Nottingham’s China policy institute, said that Ms Tsai and the Taiwanese people “have no desire for a hostile relationship with China, nor do they deny its existence.”
He said any friction between the two sides would result from Beijing putting pressure on Taiwan to comply with its wishes.
“Whatever uncertainty ensues as a result of her elections will be caused not by Taipei, but by Beijing,” the Taipei-based academic told The Telegraph.
“The ball is therefore in its camp. The Taiwanese people have spoken and it has spoken loudly. It’s up to Beijing to accept, and adapt to reality.”
Taiwan’s new President Tsai Ing-wen with her VP Chen Chien-jen, right, during her inauguration ceremony in Taipei last week.