Tsai Ing-wen: Yes to dialogue with Beijing, no to the principle 'one country, two systems'
The Taiwanese president inaugurated her second term today. Taiwan is trying to boost its international status. For the 4th consecutive year, the island has been excluded from the WHO. Amending the constitution as proposed by Tsai could heighten tensions with the Chinese Communist Party.
Taipei (AsiaNews) – In her second inaugural speech as President of China (Taiwan), Tsai Ing-wen said that she was ready for dialogue with China, but not on the basis of the principle of "one country, two systems” promoted by Chinese leaders seeking unification between the mainland and the island.
Tsai is the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, and is viewed by the People’s Republic of China as pro-independence. For the Chinese Communist Party, Taiwan is a rebel province to be reunited with the mainland by force if necessary.
The Taiwanese leader has never recognised the principle of one China. Her predecessor Ma Ying-jeou, from the Nationalist (Kuomintang) Party, was in favour of greater integration between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Conversely, Tsai wants to boost the island's international status. Almost a hundred senior foreign dignitaries, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, congratulated her today. States that have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, except the Vatican, have sent special video greetings.
Since 2016, when Tsai began first came to power, Beijing has snatched seven diplomatic allies away from the island, which currently has formal relations with only 15 countries.
Yesterday, for the fourth consecutive year, the Chinese government blocked Taiwan’s application for observer status at the annual assembly of the World Health Organisation. The Unite States, along with Australia, Japan and many European countries, support Taiwan’s membership.
For her part, the Taiwanese president has proposed the creation of a parliamentary committee to discuss constitutional changes. They concern the system of government and aspects related to the rights of citizenship, such as lowering the voting age from 20 to 18 years (which has cross-party support in Taiwan’s parliament).
The Central News Agency reports that a coalition of 14 civic groups has called on Tsai to go one step further. For these pro-independence groups, a “constituent” committee should discuss a new constitution, avoiding reference "to national unification" and the “Chinese mainland”.
In fact, fewer and fewer Taiwanese feel connected to China. According to a survey released on 12 May by the Pew Research Center, a US think tank, 66 per cent of Taiwanese consider themselves Taiwanese, 28 per cent both Taiwanese and Chinese, and only 4 per cent see themselves as Chinese.
For a number of observers, the constitutional issue raised by Tsai will further fuel tensions with China, given that it could lead to changes in the island's territorial and political status, which currently enjoys de facto independence.