Tai­wan in­au­gu­rates first fe­male pres­i­dent amid warn­ings from China

The African - - POT POURRI - BY NEIL CON­NOR

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.

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