In brief

Tsai begins second term, warns Taiwan will not bow to China

Chinese government insists “reunification” is “inevitable”

Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsai Ing-wen. Author: David Reid
Tsai Ing-wen began her second term as Taiwan’s president 20 May by warning in her inaugural speech that she would not accept the island’s subordination to Beijing. A Chinese government agency replied that “reunification” is “inevitable”.

“I want to reiterate the words ‘peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue’,” Tsai said in reference to Taiwan-China relations. “We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one country, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.”

The “one country, two systems” principle holds that, within a unified China, different political and economic systems can coexist, as is the case with Hong Kong and Macao.

Tsai, however, insisted that relations between the two countries should continue as they have been up till now: bilaterally and with both sides at the same level.

Tsai is the leader of socioliberal Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), one of the two main parties in Taiwan. The DPP advocates that Taiwan has a distinct identity from China, and holds that the island constitutes a de facto independent state, a situation it believes must not change.

The other major party on the island, conservative Kuomintang, argues that Taiwan and China form a single nation, and is more favourable to considering some form of unification —provided it is the result of a bilateral agreement— between the two jurisdictions.

Tsai’s speech included some references to the uniqueness of the people of Taiwan. “We, the 23 million people, have always been and will always be a community with a shared destiny,” she said.

Responding to the discourse, the Chinese government’s Taiwan Affairs Office released a statement in which it says that “reunification is a historical inevitability of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and insists that Beijing has “the firm will, full confidence, and sufficient ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Analysts told Al Jazeera that Tsai will face greater pressure from China during her second term.

Tsai, who has been president of Taiwan since 2016, won a second mandate in the 11 January 2020 election, with 57% of the votes.