China reacted strongly to the news that the DPP candidate won the presidency of Taiwan, putting the Taiwanese national government back under independence-leaning leadership.
Tsai Ing-wen and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won a decisive victory on Saturday. Tsai, who supports a Taiwan more independent from China, will take succeed Ma Ying-jeou who increased Taiwan’s ties to mainland China.
— Women in the World (@WomenintheWorld) January 16, 2016
China sees self-ruled Taiwan as a breakaway province in which they have been engaged with in a civil war since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) fled the Chinese Community Party led by Mao Zedong. They made it to Taipei which became the de facto capital of the Republic of China as opposed to Beijing which became the seat of People’s Republic of China.
The change in leadership promises to usher in another era of instability across the Strait of Taiwan that separates the two regions.
While Tsai has pledged to maintain peace with China saying that she supports a “status quo,” China’s Taiwan Affairs Office warned about any potential moves toward independence and vowed to defend the country’s unity.
In the communique through state media, China said Taiwan should abandon any “hallucinations” about independence and called such thoughts “poison.”
“If there is no peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s new authority will find the sufferings of the people it wishes to resolve on the economy, livelihood and its youth will be as useless as looking for fish in a tree,” they said.
“We hope Tsai can lead the DPP out of the hallucinations of Taiwan independence, and contribute to the peaceful and common development between Taiwan and the mainland,” it added.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) January 17, 2016
China-Taiwan relations have been seen as more sanguine under President Ma, who was born in Hong Kong and who oversaw a time of greater integration with China, particularly economically. Before Ma, between 2000 and 2008, Taiwan was led by then-President Chen Shui-bien who China saw as a troublemaker who was intent on sabotaging cross-strait relations for some symbolic efforts that suggested Taiwan to be an independent country but who also largely kept the peace.
Tsai won 56 percent of the vote in a sweep of rival Eric Chu of the Ma’s China-friendly Nationalist Party. The DPP also made huge gains in the parliamentary polls gaining a majority with 68 seats in the 113-seat legislature.
Tsai, who is also Taiwan’s first woman president, now has the unenviable job of straddling the line between pushing the idea that Taiwan is separate from China while trying to keep the peace – as well as economic ties – in tact.
“I don’t envy her,” a commentator for a major Taiwanese daily publication told China Cheat Sheets. “I want to see how she can stand the pressure from China on the cross-strait issues.”.