TAIWAN, known officially as the Republic of China, has inaugurated its first female president, Tsai Ing-wen, who won by a landslide with an anti-Beijing campaign frowned upon by the Chinese government.
Tsai, 59, will have to confront major challenges inherited from outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou – including rising tensions between Beijing and Taiwan, and an economy in crisis.
Tsai is the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has always leaned towards independence from China. Their victory in January’s elections have led to a rapid cooling of relations to China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory.
China has responded to Tsai’s election by intensifying pressure on the island nation with military exercises, diplomatic moves and cross-border deportations.
Earlier this year, China’s President Xi Jinping said Beijing will not budge from its position of insistence that Taiwan recognize itself as a part of China, regardless of political changes.
However, Tsai’s inaugural speech today focused on Taiwan taking charge of its own future. She said: “At this moment and as President, I declare to the citizens of this country that my administration will resolve in spearheading this country’s reform, and will never back down.”
— Winnie King (@DrWinnieKing) May 20, 2016
In her speech, translated in full by Focus Taiwan, Tsai outlines her plans to turn the island’s economy around and promises to “change young people’s predicament”.
She made no mention of the “One-China” policy that Beijing insisted she acknowledge and instead addressed Taiwan as a ‘country’ a number of times in her speech, which is likely to raise hackles in Beijing.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) May 20, 2016
However, Tsai emphasized on the need for unity and peace in Cross-Strait relations, saying: “Cross-Strait relations have become an integral part of building regional peace and collective security.
“In this process, Taiwan will be a ‘staunch guardian of peace’ that actively participates and is never absent. We will work to maintain peace and stability in Cross-Strait relations.”
Tsai ended her inaugural speech with a pledge to “safeguard democracy, freedom, and this country”, a line some pundits say will cause tempers to flare in Beijing.
Zhongnanhai after President Tsai ends inauguration speech with a pledge to "protect our democracy, freedom, country" pic.twitter.com/AgBf8hmveU
— Haidi Lun 伦海迪 (@HaidiLun) May 20, 2016
Additional reporting by Associated Press