Tsai faces challenge of resetting China's expectations: WSJ commentary

05/03/2016 06:20 PM
President-elect Tsai Ing-wen. (CNA file photo)
President-elect Tsai Ing-wen. (CNA file photo)

New York, May 2 (CNA) Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who will become Taiwan's next president later this month, faces the challenge of resetting China's expectations for Taiwan, according to a commentary published Monday by the Wall Street Journal.

For Tsai, "one way to do so might be to present herself as a mediator between Chinese leaders and increasingly nationalistic Taiwanese citizens," the commentary said.

Tsai, chairwoman of the Taiwan independence-leaning DPP, will take office May 20 as the country's first female president.

How she addresses mounting pressure from Beijing during her inauguration speech will set the tone for her presidency, it said.

Tsai has pledged to maintain stable cross-strait relations when she assumes her duties as Taiwan's president, but Beijing is pressuring her to sign on to its dream of eventual reunification, the commentary said.

That is politically impossible for her, "but she may be able to find a modus vivendi with Beijing," it added.

Outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the China-friendly Kuomintang established closer ties with Beijing, including a major economic agreement, by accepting the slogan of "one China, separate interpretations" as the basis for cross-strait talks, it said.

"Beijing is now pressuring Ms. Tsai to sign on to the Ma policy," the commentary said.

As Tsai is preparing to take office, there have been several incidents that have sparked speculation that Beijing is sending warning signals over cross-strait ties to Tsai.

The incidents include China's resumption of diplomatic ties in March with The Gambia, more than two years after the African country severed official ties with Taiwan, it said.

"The move ended an unofficial agreement since 2008 not to try to poach each other's diplomatic partners," the commentary said.

Although Taiwan has held observer status at the U.N. World Health Assembly since 2009, it has yet to receive an invitation to the WHA session later this month, apparently due to China's pressure, it added.

But the biggest row recently is over who should prosecute Taiwanese citizens who commit crimes abroad, particularly crimes against Chinese nationals, it said.

In April, Kenya succumbed to Chinese pressure and deported 45 Taiwanese fraud suspects to Beijing, a move Taipei called "extrajudicial abduction," it said.

Kenyan judges acquitted the suspects, but China asserts that it has jurisdiction and wants the suspects tried where the victims were affected, it said, adding that the fact that Beijing offered Kenya financial support earlier this year likely helped.

Although Ma managed to improve cross-strait ties during his eight years in office, his rapprochement with Beijing has proved unpopular with Taiwanese voters, with the KMT losing the presidential and legislative elections in January, the commentary said.

"Despite the economic carrots offered by the mainland, Taiwan's separate identity grew stronger during his eight-year term," it said.

When Ma joined hands with Beijing, he was derided as a stooge, it said. "Perhaps like Richard Nixon, the only leader who can put relations on a new and more stable basis is a former firebrand like Ms. Tsai," it added.

(By Timothy Huang and Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/J

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