First Taiwanese female president claims independence from China

The new president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, is making history for two reasons. She’s the first female president in the Asian country and she’s claiming independence from China, the fundamental issue that is at the heart of any discussion in Taiwan.

More than 20,000 supporters of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) celebrated Ing-wen’s victory on Jan. 16, shouting: “We are making history,” after the ruling Kuomintang Party (KMT), which supports the notion that Taiwan and the Chinese mainland are part of one country, lost control of the parliament for the first time since 1949.

Ing-wen, 59, as the DPP leader, thanked the United States and Japan for their support and vowed Taiwan would contribute to peace and stability in the region.

The election came just months after a historic meeting between ex-President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in November, which was regarded as largely symbolic, being the first in more than 60 years.

China’s Communist Party leaders still view Taiwan as part of their country’s territory and hope one day to reabsorb the island that has ruled itself since 1949.

In its state-owned media, China downplayed the Taiwanese election, using for example the term of “presidential election” in quotation marks and ignoring the island’s political debates, which reflects China’s refusal to accept the island’s sovereignty and democracy.

Taiwan is the only ethnic Chinese society in the world in which genuinely competitive elections pick senior political leaders.

Cover credit: AFP