CHINA MONITOR

Date: 23 May 2020
Author: Łukasz Kobierski

The Presidential Inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen

President of Taiwan – Tsai Ing-wen, began her second term in the office on May 20, 2020. In the inaugural address, several themes were also devoted to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan-Beijing relations.

SOURCE: TWITTER

On January 11, presidential and parliamentary elections took place in Taiwan. In the former Tsai Ing-wen won again with more than 57% support, obtaining a record 8 million votes. Her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), maintained a majority in the parliament. On May 20, Ing-wen officially began her second term in the office with a strong public support, which came as a result of the effective fight against the coronavirus pandemic, among others.

In the inaugural speech, the President of Taiwan referred in particular to relations with the PRC. According to her, PRC has reached a “historic turning point”. As Tsai Ing-wen said: “Both countries have the duty to find a way to coexist for a long time and to counteract the intensification of antagonisms and differences.”

Currently, the most significant statement influencing the process of shaping future relations with the PRC is the lack of acceptance of the “one country, two systems” formula, which constitutes the essence of Beijing’s unification proposal. In her inauguration speech, the Taiwanese President firmly stated that Taipei would not agree to degrade its position and undermine the status quo. Furthermore, she clearly underlined the meaning of the words, such as “peace, equivalence, democracy and dialog”.

It did not take long for China to respond. The Taiwan Affairs Office reminded in its statement that Beijing will continue with the “one state, two systems” formula and will not allow separatist efforts of Taiwan to achieve (full) independence of the island as well as that the reunification process is inevitable. According to the plans of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), by the end of 2049, the unification process of all Chinese lands should be finalized under the slogan “the great renaissance of the Chinese nation”. It is worth noting that the government’s report announced by the Prime Minister Li Keqiang on May 22, did not include the phrase “peaceful reunification” of Taiwan, used for at least four decades. In turn, at the beginning of 2019, PRC’s President Xi Jinping did not rule out the use of force against the island in the event of political changes in Taiwan that are unfavorable to China. We are also observing numerous military maneuvers near Formosa, conducted by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Ing-wen on starting her second term. As we could read in the press release: “Her courage and vision of Taiwan’s leading and vibrant democracy are an inspiration for the region and the world.” Notably, after 1979, when the US established official relations with the PRC, the custom of congratulating Taiwanese representatives on such a high diplomatic level was abandoned. Donald Trump’s new administration has changed this approach and systematically strengthens Formosa both diplomatically and militarily, which becomes another bone of contention between Washington and Beijing.

Given the current political situation, the new Taiwanese President is realistic about the future plans for Taiwan and does not foresee to achieve full independence. After the January elections, Tsai Ing-wen announced that she does not envision such need. She added, however, that she intends to intensify Taiwan’s activities and participation within international organizations.

There will certainly be no reunification with China in the short term, especially since the vast majority of Taiwan’s citizens feel Taiwanese and support Tsai Ing-wen’s policy, according to the latest surveys. The second reason is the American protective umbrella established over Taiwan, which prevents aggression by the PRC.

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