Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taiwan Softens Anti-China Stance with Moderate Presidential Candidate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taiwan Softens Anti-China Stance with Moderate Presidential Candidate

Article excerpt

Taiwan's traditionally pro-independence party nominated Tsai Ing- wen, who favors working with China on economic issues, for president.

Taiwan's main opposition party, known for riling China with its push for formal independence, picked a relative moderate Wednesday as its candidate for the 2012 presidential election, indicating that the island's relations with Beijing may have passed their historic worst.

In an island-wide telephone poll on Monday and Tuesday of 15,000 eligible voters, the Democratic Progressive Party nominated its chairwoman, Tsai Ing-wen, to run against China-friendly incumbent Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party in January. Ms. Tsai favors conditional engagement on economic issues with China, which has claimed sovereignty over the self-ruled island since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s.

"She represents a symbol of a new generation of leadership [that] will be more pragmatic, more moderate in its views toward China," says Raymond Wu, managing director of Taipei-based political risk consultancy e-telligence. "China will go through a period of hearing her words and watching her deeds."

The former vice-premier's stance differs from that of her party's former President Chen Shui-bian, who enraged China and irritated the United States, Taiwan's staunchest informal ally, by seeking the island's formal independence. Relations across the Taiwan Straight were also strained under Mr. Chen's predecessors, with the two sides occasionally flirting with war.

Beijing officials have said de jure independence would be grounds for a military strike on the island just 100 miles away from mainland China. Soon after Tsai's nomination Wednesday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office warned her party against pressing for independence, which would "damage the peaceful development of cross- strait relations and affect stability in the Taiwan Strait."

Since Chen left office in 2008 due to term limits, Taiwan's current government has signed agreements with Beijing to open hundreds of direct flights, slash trade tariffs, and increase investment by mainland Chinese firms. …

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