Ken Moritsugu, Associated Press
The landslide reelection of Taiwan’s leader underscores the population’s embrace of an identity distinct from China — a shift that the communist leaders of China refuse to accept.
It’s a contradiction that will keep the island of 23 million people at odds with its much larger neighbour for the foreseeable future and put increasing strains on the one-China principle, which holds that Taiwan and China are part of one country.
President Tsai Ing-wen swept to a second four-year term Saturday with 57% of the vote. Her opponent, Han Kuo-yu, tallied 39%. The results soundly rejected the China-friendly views of his Nationalist Party, which has struggled to adapt to the emergence and evolution of a Taiwanese identity.
The question for the next four years is whether the governments on both sides of the 160-kilometer- (100-mile-) wide Taiwan Strait will stay the course or escalate their battle of wills.
China may step up its campaign to try to isolate Taiwan both diplomatically and economically, though it may also be rethinking that approach after efforts to do so during Tsai’s first term only seemed to build support for her at home.
Her big win could embolden some in her Democratic Progressive Party to look for ways to nudge Taiwan toward formal independence from China, the party’s official goal. But even symbolic steps would anger China and could invite retaliation, and Tsai herself has shown no signs of going down that path.
Modern Taiwan is an outgrowth of a civil war between the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong’s Communists for control of China after World War II. The communists triumphed in 1949, and Chiang’ retreated to Taiwan, where he set up a rival government that he ran with an iron fist while harboring hopes of taking back the entire country from the communists.
That is no longer a realistic goal, and with each passing decade, Chiang’s dream has been replaced by a growing sense that Taiwan is not a part of China, particularly among the younger generations. They see their home as a separate entity with its own democratic ideals and don’t want to be subsumed by China and its ruling Communist Party.
The long-running and violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong that started last June reinforced that sentiment.
Early in 2019, Chinese leader Xi Jinping proposed talks with Taiwan on joining China under a “one-country, two-systems” framework similar to the one that governs Hong Kong, the former British colony returned to China in 1997.
Most Taiwanese oppose the idea, and Tsai capitalized politically on the Hong Kong protests, saying they illustrate why one-country, two-systems doesn’t work.
Taiwan largely functions as an independent nation, with its own laws, military and foreign minister, though technically it and mainland China belong to one country with rival governments, the People’s Republic of China in Beijing and the Republic of China in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital.
Tsai, though, has refused to endorse that one-China policy and sought to build unofficial ties with the United States, which does not recognize Taiwan but is its main supplier of military equipment to defend itself against China. Signals of support from the Trump administration have given voters confidence in Tsai’s approach of pushing back against China’s threats.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congraulated Tsai in a statement released soon after the election results came out and applauded “her commitment to maintaining cross-Strait stability in the face of unrelenting pressure.”
The US military said it sent two Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as the Pentagon increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.
China must “sincerely repent” for the bloody crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrators on and around Tiananmen Square three decades ago and promote democratic reforms, Taiwan’s government said
Taiwan’s export orders contracted for an eighth straight month in June, with global companies increasingly hesitant to make new investments in machinery as the China-US trade war wears on.
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