On Saturday evening a few deliberate sentences and a shy smile from victorious Tsai Ing-wen were enough to inspire her followers. Tens of thousands had gathered outside the headquarters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to celebrate the re-election of their president. She received more votes than any other president before her since the first direct election of a president in 1996.
The election result shows “crystal clear” that Taiwan will not bow to China’s intimidation attempts, said Tsai. The Taiwanese would have given Xi Jinping’s concept of a unification of China and Taiwan according to the model “one country, two systems” a clear rejection.
China has used military and diplomatic pressure to force Taiwan to accept “totally unacceptable conditions”. This referred to Beijing’s request that Tsai must acknowledge that China and Taiwan are one and the same country.
Before the victory celebration, Tsai Ing-wen said in a press conference that she expected the pressure from China will continue and could get bigger. Although Tsai Ing-wen called on Beijing to return to the dialogue, it made no concessions to the Chinese leadership, making it unlikely that any rapprochement will take place in the near future.
Tsai’s Chinese-critical course was clearly rewarded by the voters. The relationship with the oversized neighbor was the crucial issue in the election campaign. The president wants to make Taiwan economically more independent of mainland China and to reduce the influence of the Communist Party on the island. It will not be easy, of course: More than 40 percent of Taiwanese exports are currently going to China, and more than one and a half million Taiwanese live and work in mainland China.
Tsai’s challenger Han Kuo-yu from the National People’s Party (KMT) admitted defeat in the evening. “I haven’t worked hard enough to meet everyone’s expectations,” he said in Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan, of which he is the mayor. Many Taiwanese feared that he could hand over the island to the Communists for economic benefits.
The KMT has traditionally viewed friendly relations with Beijing as the best way to avert a military escalation. But against this argument stood the great mistrust of Beijing, which is particularly widespread among the younger generations. They fear that the Communist Party could undermine and undermine Taiwanese democracy through covert operations.