The re-election of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou to a second term was welcomed in Beijing on Sunday, with his victory seen by analysts as giving the Kuomintang (KMT) government the green light to pursue economic policies bringing Taiwan closer to China.
China was “willing to join hands with Taiwan's all walks of life on the basis of continuing to oppose ‘Taiwan independence',” an official of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, or Chinese cabinet, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
Under Mr. Ma's presidency, ties across the Taiwan Strait warmed, with the introduction of direct flights and the signing of a first-of-its-kind Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).
Mr. Ma overcame a strong challenge from the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Tsai Ing-wen, who blamed the KMT's policies for rising economic inequalities and risking a dilution of the island's sovereignty by bringing it into a tighter economic embrace with China.
While Beijing has refrained from involving itself in the election, Mr. Ma's victory will bring relief here with many analysts fearing that a DPP victory would strain recently thawing cross-strait ties.
“The results of the elections have indicated that the peaceful development of the cross-Strait relations is a correct path and has been widely recognised by the Taiwan people,” State-run Xinhua said in a commentary, adding that the election would “represent a new opportunity” for improving relations.
“Under the public's pressure, the DPP and its candidate Tsai Ing-wen have to lower their voices for ‘Taiwan independence',” the commentary said.
While China seeks peaceful reunification, it has threatened to use force if Taiwan declares independence. The likelihood of that has, however, receded in recent years, with an increasing political consensus in Taiwan favouring greater engagement with China.
Clayton Dube, the executive director of the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California who was in Taiwan to observe the election, said the common ground between the KMT and DPP had grown over the past four years “because the DPP has seen how the economic links with the mainland helped Taiwan avoid the worst of the global financial crisis.'
“This has happened without comprising Taiwan's sovereignty,” he said.
Saturday's election, he noted, was a reflection that “Taiwan's people have voted for stability.”
“They see Ma's administration as having stabilised and improved the complex relationship with China and having provided steady economic advance,” he said.
“Many in the DPP fear that China's economic expansion will ensnare Taiwan and that Taiwan would then undergo an economic and demographic takeover. It appears, though, that Taiwan's people are confident that Ma and his administration are better able to make the most of what is a difficult situation.”