Pro-China President Elected in Taiwan
By Stephanie Ho
22 March 2008
Voters in Taiwan have elected as president the man who campaigned for closer economic ties with China. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
Fireworks erupted Saturday night over the campaign headquarters of Ma Ying-jeou, a Harvard-educated lawyer and former mayor of Taipei.
Ma, from the Nationalist party, won Taiwan's presidential election, with 58 percent of the vote.
More than 41 percent of voters chose his opponent, Frank Hsieh, from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
Bruce Jacobs, a professor at Australia's Monash University, says many Taiwanese voters chose Ma, from the opposition party, because they were dissatisfied with the performance of the current administration.
"The main reason he [Ma] won was owing to domestic political and economic reasons in Taiwan. People voted for him because they were dissatisfied with the economic policies and the perceived corruption of the current government," he said.
The incumbent, president Chen Shui-bian, is widely seen as pushing for Taiwan independence, which has angered China and has led to increased cross-Straits tension. Beijing considers the island part of the Chinese nation and has vowed to use force, if necessary, to prevent it from declaring independence.
Ma based his campaign on promises to reverse President Chen's pro-independence direction and leverage China's economic boom to help re-energize Taiwan's ailing high-tech economy.
He proposed a peace treaty with Beijing that would demilitarize the 160-kilometer-wide Taiwan Strait, which separates the two heavily armed sides.
But he has drawn the line at unification with China, promising it would not be discussed during his presidency.
Shelley Rigger, a professor at Davidson College, says although Ma may be Beijing's preferred candidate, he will not necessarily see eye-to-eye with China's government.
"He has made very strong statements in recent days, criticizing the Chinese government's response to the unrest in Tibet and other things," she noted.
There has been no immediate comment from China's leadership. But the official Xinhua news agency did report Ma's victory. It did not describe the contest as a presidential election, but simply called it an election for the "island's leadership."
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