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Beijing watching if Taiwan's president changes China policy: scholar

2018/11/25 20:24:22

CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 25 (CNA) The Chinese government is expected to watch closely to see if President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will change her China policy following a major setback of her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the just-concluded local elections, a China expert said Sunday.

In Saturday's elections in Taiwan's 22 cities and counties, including six special municipalities, Tsai's party suffered a huge defeat, losing seven of the 13 cities and counties it previously held.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT), meanwhile, won 15 mayoral and magistrate posts, regaining its footing after being badly defeated in the 2014 local elections, when it was left with only six.

Asked to comment on whether the results will change Beijing's Taiwan policy, Chang Wu-ueh (張五岳), a professor of China Studies at New Taipei-based Tamkang University, predicted that there will be no major changes for the time being.

In the longer term, however, China will be watching closely if the defeat could lead to Tsai not running for reelection in 2020, meaning the DPP may have to come up with a new presidential candidate, Chang said.

Another major point that Beijing is expected to observe closely is whether Tsai will change her administration's China policy in an attempt to extend a goodwill gesture to the other side of the Taiwan Strait, as the election results clearly show that Tsai's current China policy is not accepted by many voters, Chang said.

Cross-strait relations have remained strained since Tsai's inauguration in May 2016 because the DPP's refusal to recognize the "1992 consensus" has reduced Beijing's willingness to engage with Tsai's administration.

The "1992 consensus" refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese government that both sides acknowledge there is "one China," with each side having its own interpretation of what "one China" means.

Meanwhile, commenting on the reelection of incumbent Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), Chang said this shows that voters are more interested for a local government to continue cross-strait exchanges on the economic and trade front instead of focusing on political differences.

Ko, an independent, has reiterated his stance in favor of city exchanges in areas outside of politics and has previously come under harsh criticism from DPP and pro-Taiwan independence supporters for his description in 2015 of the two sides of the strait as "one family."

(By Chen Chia-lun and Joseph Yeh)