Tsai Ing-wen headed the Democratic Progressive Party, the so-called “opposition party” in Taiwan, and is seeking the presidency of the Republic of China in-exile next year.
Critics of incumbent Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang Party ruling the exiled Chinese Nationalist government have put a lot of hope on Tsai. Although Tsai faces stiff competition for the DPP nomination she has cultivated a following sympathetic with Taiwan independence.
However, Tsai’s recent remarks in Taipei, in English, betray a fundamental allegiance to the ROC that ignores the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Speaking to a breakfast club of foreigners living in Taiwan, Tsai acknowledged the most common question she is asked is about Taiwan’s relationship with China. The People’s Republic of China has laid claim to the island since 1949 when Chinese dictator Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in defeat following the Chinese civil war.
Taiwan, also known as Formosa. has been occupied by the Chinese Nationalists since October 1945 when the United States imposed the Chinese regime on the Japanese territory. Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty that ended World War II the United States is the “principal occupying Power” of the island.
The United States protects the island from Chinese invasion with the Taiwan Relations Act and a six-decade “strategic ambiguity” that leaves American intentions unspecified. The Taiwanese have been denied self-determination and live in what the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals calls “political purgatory” because of the Cold War and American foreign policy maneuvering.
Some proponents of an independent Republic of Taiwan. free from an imposed Chinese constitution, find support for their views in Tsai’s criticism of Ma Ying-jeou’s overtures to China and her denunciation of the “one-China” policy that leaves little room for Taiwan.
Although Tsai’s independence-minded supporters see her election as a necessary step to self-determination, Tsai stumbled badly on the matter when speaking to the expatriate audience. Tsai discussed the “cross-strait” terminology that confines Taiwan to a “one-China” view and said that Taiwan needs to respond to China in a “multi-lateral” manner.
Tsai told the largely American audience that China needed to recognize that both sides of the Taiwan Strait are members of the “international community” and that international laws must govern China’s conduct toward Taiwan.
The DPP presidential candidate glossed over Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Organization, regional security alliances, membership in the United Nations and lack of recognition by the vast majority of the world’s nations.
Tsai Ing-wen instead placed her reliance on the World Trade Organization to protect Taiwan from China and without acknowledgement embraced the “strategic ambiguity” clouding her own position on Taiwan’s status.
Tsai’s fuzziness on Taiwan’s status may be guided by the firestorm she kicked up last year when she referred to the Republic of China as a government in exile.
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