Opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen has been elected Taiwan’s first female president.
She beat New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu, who has stepped down as chairman of the formerly ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Party which had helped build warmer ties with Beijing.
The 59 year old who leads the Democratic Progressive Party that wants independence from China says she will strive to maintain stability in relations with the two countries.
Tsai also stated she would establish “consistent, predictable and sustainable” relations with China and not be provocative, to ensure the status quo.
She risks antagonising China if she attempts to forcefully assert Taiwan’s sovereignty and reverses eight years of warming China ties under incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalists.
In her victory speech, the president-elect said “Both sides have a responsibility to do their utmost to find mutually acceptable ways to interact with respect and reciprocity and ensure no provocation and no surprises. The outcome of today’s elections represents the will of the Taiwanese people.
“The Republic of China, as a democratic country, is the root of 23 million Taiwanese people. Our democracy, national identity and international space must be fully respected and any suppression would undermine the stability of cross-Strait relations,” Tsai said, having taken around 56 percent of the vote.” she addedThe election comes at a tricky time for Taiwan’s export-dependent economy, which slipped into recession in the third quarter last year. China is also Taiwan’s top trading partner and Taiwan’s favourite investment destination.
Support for the DPP has swelled since 2014, when hundreds of students occupied Taiwan’s parliament for weeks in the largest display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.
Tsai has the tide of history against her. Ma and his predecessors all failed to bring about a lasting reconciliation with China, which considers Taiwan a rogue province to be taken by force if necessary. Shots were traded between the two sides as recently as the mid-1970s.