Friday, January 6, 2017

Formosa Island's fresh start

Originally published in
on May 21st, 2016
 by Don Juan Corzo
The inauguration of Tsai Ing Wen as Taiwan's first female president on Friday clearly marks a pivotal event in the island nation's history. But it's not just for reasons of gender equality. She shares the same honorable achievement as her South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye as women holding the highest office as democratically elected leaders in Asia.
Park became president in 2013 but unlike Tsai, she seems to maintain a stronger relationship with the U.S. including unequivocal military support against North Korea's threats. President Tsai faces greater challenges since she doesn't receive the same formalized support from the U.S. government against possible hostilities from China.
In an effort to exert its influence over Taiwan, China made headlines in April when it demanded that 45 Taiwanese suspects be deported from Kenya to the mainland to face criminal charges stemming from a fraud case that targeted many Chinese nationals. Taiwan government protested the action by the Chinese authorities citing jurisdiction and sovereignty issues. Many considered the move an effort by Beijing to assert its power over Taiwan despite Tsai's election and DPP landslide seat wins in Parliament last January.
China's network CCTV reported on May 18th that the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon don't support Taiwan's attempt to break away from the mainland as an independent nation, but those assertions weren't confirmed as true by media relations in the U.S. Department of Defense.
“This latest election is further proof of the Taiwanese people's enduring commitment to the ideals of freedom and self-governmentt, principles that are the foundations that both of our nations are built upon,” U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said on Friday in response to a resolution passed in the Foreign Affairs Committee to strengthen relations between U.S. and Taiwan against aggressions from China.
The outgoing Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou established harmonious relations with China's government during his eight  years in office, and many perceived his dealings as an attempt to pave the way for a Taiwan- China reunification. As a member of conservative KuoMinTang, such goal is desired by the party, which was formerly the official government of China before the current communist ruling party took over in 1949.
Tsai represents the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the other major political party in Taiwan, which exhorts a separate, independent Taiwanese identity, and publicly favors total independence, though not officially, as of yet.
Taiwanese and Chinese citizens don't eye to eye in their differences over the island and the mainland political stance, but both agree the relationship between China and Tiawan is complicated at best.
The People's Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing wasn't pleased to hear Tsai's inaugural speech calling for better relationship between the two countries.The Chinese government was expecting to hear more literal acknowledgement from the new Taiwanese president about following the one China policy drilled in the Chinese citizens' minds. With statements like "From here on out history will no longer divide Taiwan. Instead, it will propel Taiwan forward,"  Tsai made a hopeful message for her people, but refused to give in to China's demands to imply subjugation.
During her speech, the former law professor emphasized strengthening relations and trade with other Asian nations to offset the reliance on China's economy and continue strong business ties with the U.S.
While Tsai's taking the oath of office was witnessed live by hundreds of dignitaries from more than 50 countries in Taipei and it was broadcast or covered across the world,  the Chinese government kept its media outlets from reporting on the historic event and searches online and social media were effectively blocked in mainland.

Despite the tense, complex relationship between the two countries, Tsai says the most important goal in her mind is economic growth as was evident in her speech.
“At this moment, Taiwan’s situation is very difficult, I invite every fellow citizen to carry the future of this country,” Tsai said in her speech.
Domestic matters seem more important than cross-strait relations, but many still see China's ever present large shadow as the Red Elephant in the Formosa Room.

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