Taiwan Opposition’s Presidential Nominee Tsai Ing-wen Says Won’t Change China Ties ◎WSJ 04-15-2015


The pro-Taiwan independence Democratic Progressive Party on Wednesday formally nominated Ms. Tsai, a 58-year-old legal scholar and party chairwoman, for the presidential election slated for Jan. 16, 2016. It will be her second bid for the island’s top position, after losing to incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou in 2012.

At a news conference in Taipei, Ms. Tsai reiterated that maintaining the “status quo” with China—no mutual recognition and no unilateral change of status—is the basic principle of the DPP’s China policy.

“When the DPP resumes power, [the party] will conduct all cross-strait exchanges on a democratic ground firmly based on people’s will,” said Ms. Tsai, who would be Taiwan’s first female president if elected. Taiwan must maintain peaceful and harmonious external relationships with all players, she said.


Within an hour of Ms. Tsai’s nomination, Beijing responded by urging the DPP to “distance itself from independence movement.”

“The anchor of cross-strait relationship is the common understanding that both the mainland and Taiwan belong to China,” Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs spokesman, Ma Xiaoguang, said in a report published by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency Wednesday afternoon.

As Taiwan’s former top China negotiator, Ms. Tsai is all too familiar with the twin pressures of convincing the electorate that she won’t lead Taiwan deeper into Beijing’s orbit while seeking closer trade ties with China, Taiwan’s largest export destination and the main manufacturing base of Taiwan’s major tech companies.

Under the previous DPP administration, former president Chen Shui-bian rattled cross-strait ties by publicly vouching for formal independence. He pushed for Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that require statehood and abolished the National Unification Council that was designed to pave the way for an eventual China-Taiwan merger. Mr. Chen’s provocative actions drove a wedge among the Taiwanese public and sparked angry responses from both Beijing and Washington.

“The two sides should not forget the tension between 2000 and 2008. During that time, the island’s leader was from the DPP,” Mr. Ma was quoted as saying in the Xinhua report.

Beijing and Taiwan have fostered closer relations in recent years by agreeing to set aside their historical animosity, but mutual trust between the Chinese Communist Party and the DPP remains thin. For the DPP, reunification with the mainland isn’t an acceptable option but Beijing vows to take Taiwan back, by force if needed.

Ms. Tsai, who was branded by Beijing as a Taiwan separatist during the 2012 race, last week urged Beijing to widen its communication channel with Taiwan by not limiting it to China’s preferred party, the ruling Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang.

Her comments came after the KMT last week announced its chairman, Eric Chu, will lead a delegation to attend the annual KMT-CCP forum in Shanghai early next month. The forum is usually attended by the heads of CCP and KMT.

Mr. Chu, who doubles as the mayor of New Taipei City, has said he won’t make a bid for presidency in 2016, but he is still seen as KMT’s best hope to beat Ms. Tsai and revive the party’s popularity. The KMT is expected to announce its presidential nominee in June. President Ma of the KMT is currently serving his second term and can’t run for re-election.


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