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Taiwan’s New President Willing to Talk with China

Taiwan’s newly-elected president, Tsai Ing-wen, says that she is willing to speak to China on behalf of Taiwan’s economy. Tsai, Taiwan’s first female president, gave an inauguration speech last Friday in which she addressed domestic issues like education and Taiwan’s judicial process.

But China is wary of Tsai, worried that she may try to strike formal independence from China, a move the powerful nation does not want. Tsai says this is a line she will not cross, but China is watching closely.

Taiwan split from China in 1949 following China’s civil war, and it has governed itself since then. But the nation is still bound to China by its own constitution, though the Taiwanese people are in favor of governmental autonomy. However, to split from China completely would not be taken lightly by China.

If Taiwan were to pull away, Sean King of Park Strategies says that China has the potential to block Taiwan from entering regional trade agreements. “Beijing was willing to look the other way under Ma but not under Tsai,” he said. Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the Nationalist Party, pursued new tourism and trade agreements with China. Tsai, however, is a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, which supports Taiwan’s independence. Thus far, Tsai has taken a cautious approach when discussing China’s and Taiwan’s relationship.

“The two governing parties across the strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides,” she said. But Tsai may not pursue new agreements with China in the coming months, even if she does not advocate for Taiwan’s independence.

“Past economic agreements will hold, but don’t expect any new ones anytime soon, and certainly nothing political,” King also said.

Tsai will look to develop trade with Japan and the United States, potentially to make up for any loss of trade with China. Her presidency will largely focus on Taiwanese youth and the problems they face, including scarce jobs and low pay. However, while Tsai has not made relations with China a core message of her presidency, the issue will certainly loom over her tenure.

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