Taiwan election sees China-friendly presidency continue
Taiwan election: President Ma Ying-jeou won re-election in the tight race. Ma is expected to continue his China-friendly policies that have Beijing and Washington smiling, but some in Taiwan getting increasingly concerned about Taiwan's de facto independence.
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Drastically lowered tensions have substantially reduced the chances that the U.S. will be embroiled in a Taiwan-China conflict at a time when it is trying to repair its economy, steady relations with Beijing and re-engage in East Asia after a decade of preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
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"Cross-Strait peace, stability and improved relations, in an environment free from intimidation, are of profound importance to the United States," the White House statement said. "We hope the impressive efforts that both sides have undertaken in recent years to build cross-Strait ties continue."
While there is little appetite in Taiwan for political union with Beijing, a majority of Taiwanese do want to engage the mainland commercially, because they see it as an economic force whose footprint is constantly growing.
Since taking office 3 1/2 years ago, Ma has sanctioned big upsurges in direct flights across the strait, given the green light to accelerated Chinese tourist visits to Taiwan and opened the door to Chinese investment.
His signature achievement was the completion of a China trade deal in June 2010 that lowered tariffs on hundreds of goods. While most of Taiwan's $124 billion worth of exports to China last year were electronic items such as television displays and cellphone chips, there was also a big upsurge in agricultural sales from southern Taiwan, long a stronghold of Tsai's party.
Ma's victory was a bitter blow to Tsai, a 55-year-old London School of Economics Ph.D., who invested great efforts in driving home her message that Ma's policies were not only widening economic inequality but also undermining Taiwan's de facto independence in exchange for economic benefits from China — a claim meant to resonate with her party's pro-independence base.
While the DPP used to push for formal Taiwanese independence, under Tsai it has adopted a more moderate posture, insisting it wants to work with China, though without the same degree of intensity it attributes to Ma.
DPP partisans — and others on the island — worry that closer commercial links with the mainland will forceTaiwan into a state of dependency that they fear will make political union inevitable. During the campaign, Ma insisted he has no intention of discussing the sensitive unification issue with Beijing during a second term, but fears of a closer political connection remain intact.
In his acceptance speech, Ma pledged to boost support for poorer Taiwanese and narrow the growing rich-poor divide while reaching out to civil society in making policy.
He promised to seek Taiwanese entry into international economic and cultural organizations from which it is now excluded by Chinese opposition, and to protect Taiwan's sovereignty, security and "the dignity of the Taiwanese people."
A former justice minister and Taipei mayor, Ma won the support of Taiwanese more with his policies than his personality. Low-key and wonkish, the 61-year-old Harvard Law School graduate has sometimes seemed ill at ease in trying to connect with ordinary Taiwanese. But his insistence that his China approach was popular in both Beijing and Washington resonated with voters seeking stability and prosperity in an increasingly globalized world.
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