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Taiwan to Inaugurate First Female President Amid Tensions with China

Taiwan is expected to inaugurate Tsai Ing-wen as the first female president Friday, amid bad relations with China and the self-ruled island’s collapsing economy.

Beijing has responded to the January election of Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] by intensifying pressure on Taiwan with military exercises, diplomatic moves and cross-border deportations and prosecutions,” reports the Associated Press (AP). “At home, Tsai faces an economy that has fallen into a recession as exports have dropped due to sluggish demand from China and elsewhere.”

“The challenges are enormous and I think that she does not underestimate them,” Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Associated Press.

Glaser added that with struggling economic growth and exports, “it is a difficult time, and China is not making it any easier, of course.”

By electing Tsai, Taiwan voters rejected the China-allied party that has ruled the island for eight years.

“The polls, which also gave the DPP its first parliamentary majority, were also seen as an expression of concern that the island’s economy is under threat from the Chinese mainland’s economic juggernaut,” notes AP.

“Beijing has warned that delicate relations between the sides would be destabilized unless Tsai explicitly endorses Beijing’s stance that the island and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation, which it calls the ‘1992 Consensus.’ Tsai has avoided doing so, but has promised not to pursue changes to the current status of de facto independence,” it adds.

Two vital constituencies will be paying close attention to Tsai’s inauguration speech but for different reasons — one in Taiwan, the other in mainland China

“At Friday’s inauguration, she is expected to reiterate her campaign pledge to maintain the status quo, even though many voters who propelled her to a landslide election victory want her to check China’s growing sway over the island,” reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

“Beijing, meanwhile, has increased pressure on Ms. Tsai by obstructing Taiwan’s participation in international meetings, stopping cooperation on cross-border criminal investigations, and hinting at economic retaliation — all to extract assurances that she will pursue policies more to China’s liking,” it adds.

China is expected to keep the pressure on and continue demanding that Tsai’s administration support its “one China” policy.

“China’s got a wide range of retaliatory measures waiting for Taiwan,” Alexander Huang, a strategic studies expert at Tamkang University in Taiwan, told AP. “I believe Dr. Tsai understands that and she will not step on the tripwire and cause trouble.”

“Since she won’t say exactly what Beijing wants to hear about the 1992 consensus, a testy admonition from the Chinese leadership is sure to follow,” adds Professor John Ciorciari, a professor at the University of Michigan who follows Taiwan politics.

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