Taiwan’s new president calls for ‘positive dialogue’ with Beijing
TAIPEI – Agence France-PresseTaiwan’s new President Tsai Ing-wen called for “positive dialogue” with China in her much-anticipated inauguration speech May 20, striking a conciliatory tone in the face of an increasingly hostile Beijing.
Tsai took office as the island’s first female president after winning a landslide victory in January to defeat the ruling Kuomintang, ending an eight-year rapprochement with Beijing under outgoing president Ma Ying-jeou.
Voters felt Ma had moved too close to China, which still sees self-ruling Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification.
Beijing-sceptic Tsai swept in with a campaign to restore Taiwanese pride.
But she sought to cast Taiwan as a force for peace in front of a jubilant crowd of more than 20,000 at the presidential palace in Taipei, where she was sworn in earlier May 20.
“The two governing parties across the strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides,” she said.
Relations with Beijing have already cooled since she won the presidency, with China putting pressure on Tsai to back its “one China” message - the bedrock of the thaw under outgoing leader Ma Ying-jeou.
Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party have never recognized the concept.
While she showed no sign of backing down from that stance in her speech, Tsai emphasized the importance of communication.
“Cross-strait relations have become an integral part of building regional peace and collective security,” she said.
“In this process, Taiwan will be a staunch guardian of peace that actively participates and is never absent.”
However, without mentioning China by name, Tsai said Taiwan needed to end its dependency on the mainland for trade, “to bid farewell to our past reliance on a single market.”
She also expressed the island’s commitment to its democratic freedoms.