Tsai Ing-wen was sworn in as President of Taiwan today in a ceremony at the Presidential Office in Taipei, becoming the first female to lead the country. The ceremony included performances from the joint military marching band of Taiwan’s armed forces, a presentation on Taiwan’s history featuring a questionable and offensive sinocentric narrative (especially in regards to the indigenous populations of Taiwan), which was only saved by the performances of Panai Kusui, Sheng Xiong Band, Fire EX, and the sounds of Timur Elementary School Chorus and Puzangalan Children’s Choir later on (their rendition of the national anthem is particularly worth listening to).
But perhaps the most anticipated part of the ceremony to international observers was President Tsai’s inaugural address. China has openly called for Tsai to endorse the so-called 1992 Consensus, under which the Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party both recognize Taiwan and the mainland as part of “one China” but each side has its own understanding of what that means. Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party disputes the existence of a consensus, while much of Taiwan’s population doesn’t have a clear understanding of what the consensus explicitly refers to as “China”. To the rest of the world, “China” clearly refers to the PRC, and the Taiwanese people definitely do not agree that Taiwan is a part of the PRC.
In her speech, Tsai focused mainly on domestic challenges: economic structure, social security (especially on pension and aging population), and social equality and justice (transitional justice, indigenous rights, legal system reform). In regards to dealing with China, she stated that she respects the historical fact that the meeting between two sides of the strait in 1992 led to several acknowledgements understandings, and that both Taiwan and China should built off of the understandings to continue the dialogue and develop towards peace in the region. She also mentioned the ROC Constitution, past agreements, and the democratic principles and popular opinions of Taiwan as parts of the foundation for future interactions. President Tsai did not mention “one China” in her address.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office released a statement after the inauguration insisting the existence of the 1992 Consensus and criticized Tsai for being vague on acknowledging such and not coming up with something concrete for cross-strait peace development. The statement is also filled with the usual strong opposition towards Taiwanese independence and an appeal saying Taiwanese people are a part of the greater Chinese family that cannot be separated. Nothing Taiwanese people didn’t expect, and the appeal sounds like an abusive man trying to get his estranged and separated wife to come home.
From today’s New York Times, Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies put it more eloquently:
“The Chinese seem to believe they can pursue a harsh policy towards the government here and continue to woo the hearts and minds of the people, that somehow they could have two different policies,” Ms. Glaser said. “I think they really believe that, and to me that’s complete nonsense.”