Tsai urged to be more pragmatic

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www.globaltimes.cn-After Taiwan’s incumbent regional leader Tsai Ing-wen swept a landslide victory in the island’s regional elections on Saturday, senior officials from the UK and the US sent out congratulations with an intention of continuously playing “Taiwan card” in containing the Chinese mainland. However, Chinese mainland officials and analysts reiterated that any separatist attempts are doomed to fail.

Tsai of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) beat Han Kuo-yu, candidate of Kuomintang (KMT) and Tsai’s major rival, with a record-high 8.17 million votes, surpassing the total votes she won in the 2016 regional elections.

In Tsai’s speech after she declared the victory, Tsai reminded that “peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue” are the four key elements in cross-Straits relations, claiming that the Taiwan authority would not “concede to threats and intimidation.”

The Chinese mainland upholds the basic principles of peaceful reunification and “one country, two systems” as well as the one-China principle, resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson for the Beijing-based Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said after the results of the elections came out.

And the mainland’s policy toward the island is consistent and clear. While endorsing the 1992 Consensus and opposing “Taiwan independence,” the mainland will work with Taiwan compatriots to continue to promote the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations and the peaceful reunification of the motherland, he noted.

Some western officials showed their eagerness of continuing using “Taiwan card” as a way of containing the rise of the mainland by praising the elections “as vibrant democracy,” and even lauded Tsai for seeking so-called stability with the mainland. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo applauded Tsai’s victory in an official statement released on Saturday, claiming the island made it “a model for the Indo-Pacific region and a force for good in the world.”

UK Foreign Office also lauded that the elections “are testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.” Meanwhile, in a meeting between Tsai and the director of the nonofficial American Institute in Taiwan on Sunday morning, the two sides reportedly sought to promote ties to a “global partnership.”

External factors

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday expressed strong opposition to Western officials congratulating the reelected regional leader, saying such behavior violated the one-China principle.

The ministry also voiced opposition toward any form of official interaction between the island and countries with established diplomatic ties with the mainland, reiterating that the one-China principle was a “shared understanding of the international community.”

Mainland analysts said Tsai’s victory speech and her intention of upgrading the island’s global presence reflected her attempt to seek more support from the US, echoing the US government’s aim of enhancing the role of the island in its Indo-Pacific strategy.

They believed Tsai’s reelection reflected younger Taiwan residents’ favorable view of the DPP. Combined registered voters stood at 19.31 million, with 16 percent in the age group of 20 and 29, and 18 percent of those aged 30 to 39.

Previous opinion polls suggested Tsai was leading Han and People’s First Party competitor James Soong Chu-yu, and analysts noted a larger turnout of young and first-time voters – given her high popularity among youth – might have given Tsai an extra edge, according to the Taipei-based Taiwan News.

Her victory emerged in an overall international political climate of rising populism, Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan studies at Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Saturday.

“Months of social unrest in Hong Kong also influenced the island’s mood,” he said.

The DPP successfully manipulated Hong Kong issue, creating anti-mainland sentiment and rejection of “one country, two systems”  with the younger generation, Song Luzheng, a research fellow and expert on Taiwan studies at the China Institute of Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Sunday.

“Young people, who are usually a little sensitive on the economy, are easily instigated. As result, the DPP gained historical support of the Taiwan youth,” he said.

Over the last few years, Tsai had been seriously challenging Chinese national sovereignty by adopting aggressive rhetoric and triggering more conflicts between the mainland and the island of Taiwan, thus seriously challenging Chinese national sovereignty.

Escalating China-US trade tension prompted Washington to come up with more acts related to the island, as part of its efforts of curbing the rise of Beijing, analysts noted.

“Those actions had little concrete content but have greater significance as the DPP took the opportunities to advocate the support from the US government,” Song said.

Tsai’s second term is anticipated to lead the cross-Straits relations into a more difficult situation in 2020. Mainland analysts also suggested that the regional leader should uphold the bottom line, continue focusing on social and economic issues in her second term.

If she continues making use of the external forces like the US in promoting “Taiwan independence,” it would only accelerate the reunification process, analysts warned.

Bottom line

Mainland’s official attitude on Taiwan question clearly indicates to the bottom line, and Taiwan regional leader and politicians should thoroughly take into consideration the potential risks before brazenly provoking the mainland, having a more pragmatic view on how long DPP’s political goals could last if it takes a more aggressive approach in dealing with cross-Straits relations.

“The ball is always in our court,” Song said, noting that mainland forecasts more obstacles in the relations after Tsai’s reelection, leading to call for a firm preparation for reunification.

To further diminish the island’s global presence, the mainland would consider establishing ties in 2020 with those countries which currently have “diplomatic relations” with the island or take more active policies and military gestures like island encirclement exercise, analysts predicted.

“The pretext of handling Taiwan question is not to affect our rejuvenation process,” an analyst close to the matter who preferred not to be named told the Global Times on Sunday. The reunification is a progressive process and taking the situation under control, which is the bottom line, he said.

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