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Taiwan elections: Lai Ching-te to assume charge as the new president

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — In a campaign ad for Taiwan President-elect Lai Ching-te, outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen was shown driving with Lai in the passenger seat, exchanging thoughts about their years governing together . Tsai then handed the leadership over to Lai, who was joined by his running mate Bi-khim Hsiao.

The message was clear: Lai would lead the island in the direction set by Tsai, who, after eight years in power, was barred from running again.

Lai, 64, will take office on Monday. Continuing Tsai’s legacy means seeking to find a balance between cultivating The unofficial Taiwan alliance with the United States and maintain peace with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territoryto regain strength if necessary.

Lai is also expected to build on some of Tsai’s domestic reforms, despite the political impasse. Lai and Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party lost a majority in the legislature, making it difficult for Lai to pass laws, including approval of crucial national defense budgets.

Tsai, 67, was Taiwan’s first female president and one of Asia’s few female leaders not from a political dynasty. His legacy will be linked to defend the sovereignty of the island against China while transforming it into a credible partner for the United States and other democracies. She will also be remembered for overseeing legalization of same-sex marriage, guiding Taiwan through the COVID years and relaunch the military modernization of the island.

She leaves office with high approval ratings. A recent survey by TVBS showed that 42% of respondents were satisfied with its performance over eight years. His predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, left office with an approval rating of around 23 percent.

Tsai’s popularity partly reflects a shift in Taiwan’s identity. A large majority of residents now identify as Taiwanese unlike the Chinese and want to be governed separately from Beijing. Taiwan and China have had different governments since a civil war in 1949 saw nationalists flee to the island while the Chinese Communist Party took control of the mainland.

Tsai has departed from the more China-friendly policies of the previous ruling party, the Kuomintang. By the end of Ma’s term, frequent exchanges with Beijing made many Taiwanese nervous, said Shelley Rigger, a Taiwan expert at Davidson College.

Beijing called Tsai a separatist after she refused to recognize the 1992 Consensus, an agreement that stipulates that Taiwan is part of “one China.” However, by moving away from Beijing, Tsai left a door open for communication.

“President Tsai has always said that Taiwan, under her leadership, is happy, willing and eager to have a dialogue with Beijing, but not on terms unilaterally imposed by Beijing,” said Wen-Ti Sung, a member of the group. Thinking Atlantic, based in Washington. Advice.

China not only refused to speak to Tsai, but intensification of military and economic pressure on the islandsending warships and military aircraft nearby daily.

Beijing prevents countries with which it maintains diplomatic relations from maintaining formal ties with Taipei. During Tsai’s tenure, she intensified her campaign to alienate the island’s few diplomatic partners. During Tsai’s years in office, China poached nearly half of Taiwan’s diplomatic allieswhich brings the remaining number to 12.

Tsai responded by diversifying trade relationships and increasing military spending, including submarine development. It also raised Taiwan’s position on the international stage, said outgoing Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

“His leadership style is very moderate, but at the same time very firm in the face of any form of international pressure,” he said.

“It has strengthened Taiwan’s profile in the world and its ties with the international community,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the Indo-Pacific program at the US German Marshall Fund.

‘TSAI 2.0’

Lai, who served as vice president during Tsai’s second term, emerged as a firebrand earlier in his career. In 2017, he described himself as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence,” drawing criticism from Beijing. Since then, he has softened his position and now supports maintaining the status quo across the Taiwan Strait and the possibility of talks with Beijing.

“Lai has spent more than two years trying to convince the world that he is Tsai Ing-wen 2.0,” said Lev Nachman, an assistant professor at National Chengchi University.

Lai will build on Tsai’s efforts to strengthen ties with the United States, which does not officially recognize Taiwan as a country but is bound by its own laws to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

By some measures, Lai’s greatest uncertainty on the foreign policy front may come from Washington. A new Donald Trump administration could disrupt the balance Tsai achieved in Taipei’s relations with Washington and Beijing, Nachman said.


During Tsai’s tenure, Taiwan became the first society in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, although critics say she avoided political responsibility by leaving the decision to the Supreme Court and a series of referendums.

She oversaw controversial pension and labor reform And extended the duration of military conscription to one year. It also launched a military modernization campaign, including a program to build indigenous submarines at more than $16 billion each.

Tsai’s leadership during the COVID pandemic has divided public opinion, with most admiring Taiwan’s initial ability to keep the virus largely outside its borders, but criticizing the lack of investment in rapid testing as the pandemic progressed.

Tsai’s mixed success on the domestic policy front has contributed to the DPP’s historically poor results in local elections, said Sung of the Atlantic Council. The party’s poor performance in the 2022 elections led to Tsai resigns as party chairwoman. And while Lai won the presidential electionthe DPP lost its majority in the Legislative Assembly.

“Much of the success of President Tsai’s government has come from foreign policy and associated international advocacy fronts, and in terms of progress at the much more local party apparatus level, for example, these have still room for improvement,” Sung said.

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