UPDATES TO ADD STATEMENT FROM BEIJING’S TAIWAN AFFAIRS AUTHORITY
By Tevfik Durul
BEIJING (AA) – Taiwan’s first woman leader Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in as president Friday after her traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won its first majority in parliament.
Tsai, 59, sang the anthem of the territory — which China considers a breakaway province — at an inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Office before being sworn in for her four-year term.
During her inaugural speech, she pledged that her government would “demonstrate resolve in spearheading this country’s reform, and will never back down”, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.
While not mentioning the “one China” policy that Beijing has been reiterating since her victory in the Jan. 16 polls, she underlined that her administration “will also work to maintain the existing mechanisms for dialogue and communication across the Taiwan Strait”.
“In 1992, the two institutions representing each side across the Strait, through communication and negotiations, arrived at various joint acknowledgements and understandings,” she said.
Tsai underlined that “it is based on such existing realities and political foundations that the stable and peaceful development of the cross-Strait relationship must be continuously promoted.”
Beijing has insisted that ties with Taiwan be based on the 1992 Consensus — and the “one China” principle it entails — to which the DPP has objected in the past.
After winning the election, however, Tsai had said she “understands and respects” the “historic fact” that the sides “reached some common acknowledgments and understanding in 1992”, but without using the term.
“By existing political foundations, I refer to a number of key elements,” she underlined Friday. “The first element is the fact of the 1992 talks between the two institutions representing each side across the Strait, when there was joint acknowledgement of setting aside differences to seek common ground.”
Beijing’s Taiwan affairs authority criticized Tsai’s speech, saying she had been “ambiguous on the fundamental issue of the nature of cross-Straits relations, an issue that is of utmost concern to people on both sides”.
“There was no explicit recognition of the 1992 Consensus and its core implications, and no proposal of concrete ways to ensure the peaceful and stable development of cross-Straits relations,” state news agency Xinhua quoted its statement as saying.
Tsai is Taiwan’s second president from the DPP, but her administration will be the first in which the party has a majority in parliament, with 68 seats out of 113.
Since Chinese nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan in 1949 after a brutal civil war with Mao Zedong’s Communists, the island’s legislature has been dominated by the nationalist Kuomintang party, whose outgoing government had overseen an improvement in ties with Beijing.
Critics, however, have accused past administrations of rendering Taiwan’s economy dependent on the mainland.
According to statistics provided by the island’s former leader Ma Ying-jeou last year, annual trade between the sides stood at more than $170 billion. Exports to China and Hong Kong account for around 40 percent of Taiwan’s total.
Chao-Hsiang Chu, chairman of Taipei City’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, recently told Anadolu Agency that the DPP government “will be undergoing a difficult period”.
“Almost all of Taiwan’s economy is dependent on China,” he said.
He added, however, that “in order not to disappoint the expectations of the party, Tsai must display a distant stance.”
In the days leading up to Tsai’s inauguration, China conducted military drills involving its 31st Group Army based in the province of Fujian, located across the strait from Taiwan, with its defense ministry insisting that the exercises were “not aimed at any specific target”.
The 31st Group Army had also conducted a live-fire drill shortly after the DPP’s election victory.
A few days later, Taiwan held small-scale military drills on Kinmen island off the mainland’s coast.