Tsai Ing-wen was elected the leader of Taiwan at the start of 2016, becoming the island’s first female leader. But 2016 was a tough year for the new leader.
In early December, Tsai and Donald Trump, president-elect of the US, had a phone call. According to Trump’s official Twitter account, the “Taiwan President” called to congratulate him on winning the election and being the new president. The call reportedly lasted for 18 minutes.
The call immediately raised the attention of both China and the current US administration. US President Obama’s government stated immediately that it continued to recognize the “One China policy.”
Trump’s call, however, challenged the relationship of the countries moving forward.
While Trump was criticized for not being adhering to longstanding US policy, Tsai was also criticized by media and politicians.
Since assuming her position, Tsai’s leadership has done little to satisfy the people of Taiwan and the world.
Tsai has avoided the topic of the “1992 Consensus,” an agreement between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan to respect the One China policy.
In July, Tsai told Lally Weymouth, deputy editor-in-chief of the Washington Post, that she rejected the consensus. Tsai said it was impossible for Taiwan to ignore the public opinion and accept the One China policy.
However, a survey by the political forum tcf.tw on July 7 found that 47 percent of Taiwan’s residents believed Tsai should accept the 1992 Consensus. Only 32 percent stood in opposition.
Zhang Zhijun, director of the Taiwan Affair Office of the State Council of People’s Republic of China, said the “One China Principal” ensured the stable development and security of both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. Any violation could disrupt the world, he said.
Zhang Wensheng, director of the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University, said it was the first time Tsai voiced her opinion about the “1992 Consensus” and independence. However, Peng Jinpeng, council president of tcf.tw, said a survey found that 84 percent of Taiwan’s residents agreed Taiwan is a part of China. Sixty percent said Taiwan would suffer a greater loss if Tsai insists her idea.
On December 20, the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe announced it cut off all relations with Taiwan. The island’s government expressed regret at the news and announced it would recall its embassy.
Some politicians in Taiwan said the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe was likely only the first country to take such action.
In addition to an unstable political future, Taiwan is facing serious economic problems.
Though the island’s economy improved slightly during the second half of the year, insiders worry the recovery will be short lived.
The frozen relationship between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan also cause a decline in tourism. As a result, TransAsia Airways, an airline based in Taiwan, announced mass layoffs and the termination of many flights due to the reduced demand.
The international trade protectionism espoused by US President-Elect Trump poses a further challenge to Taiwan’s export-driven economy.
(News from Global Times, Chinanews.com)