Rejecting the China-friendly party that has led the self-governing island for eight years, Taiwan elected Tsai Ing-wen as its first female president Saturday, handing her pro-independence party its first majority in the national legislature. With the vote count still underway, Tsai led with 60 percent of the vote, indicating a landslide victory; the ruling Nationalist party conceded defeat. Tsai said her victory was a further show of Taiwan’s ingrained democracy and its people wish for a government “steadfast in protecting this nation’s sovereignty.”
Immediately following Tsai’s win, the Chinese Cabinet’s body for handling Taiwan affairs made clear its continued opposition to Taiwan independence, but said it would continue to work toward peace and stability in the region. Yet it would seem that both might not be possible.
“Our will is as strong as a rock, our attitude unswerving on the principal matter of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Taiwan Affairs Office said.
Taiwan has not yet officially declared independence from China, yet it seems increasingly possible in the near future with this recent political shift.
“Even though Taiwan walks like and talks like its own country — with its own military, foreign diplomacy and government services — the mainland People’s Republic of China refuses to recognize it as anything more than a renegade province.” NPR’s Elise Hu
Most of the world’s countries — including the U.S., Taiwan’s most important backer — do not acknowledge Taiwan as an independent nation. Although her party has previously called for full independence from the mainland, Tsai has made it clear that she intends to work with the Chinese government to maintain the status quo with China. She said both sides are responsible for finding a mutually acceptable means of interacting, while adding that Taiwan’s international space must be respected.
With pressure from her party to form an independent Taiwan, and ongoing pressure from China to fall in line, in true political fashion her comments seem to fall on both sides of the playing field; both appeasing the pro-independence party, and the Chinese government. Yet, where her true intentions lie will be revealed in the years to come, as her decisions will shape the future of Taiwan and how it is perceived as a country.
“Tsai knows that most Taiwanese like things the way they are, their island is independent in fact, but not by law. Mainland China has threatened war if Taiwan declares independence, and Tsai has promised not to provoke the Mainland.” NPR’s Anthony Kuhn
Historically, those seeking to declare independence from a ruling body find the journey to sovereignty to be one full of violence and hardship, and considering the nation Taiwan is attempting to seceded from, this will be no different.
“Only when we grow stronger will we be able to gain respect and protect our people and our democratic way of life,” Tsai said, according to the AP.
In its statement, Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office reiterated its insistence that Taiwan and China are parts of a single nation.
“We are willing to strengthen contact with any political party or social group that agrees that the two sides of the Strait belong to one China,” the office said.
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