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Pop stars, national flags and the China issue

Bilsky Philipp Kommentarbild App
Philipp Bilsky
January 17, 2016

After the election of the new Taiwanese president, concerns about the stability of the region remain. But Tsai Ing-wen seems very aware of her responsibility, says DW's Philipp Bilsky.

Taiwan Wahl Tsai Ing-wen
Image: Reuters/P. Chuang

Shortly before the vote took place, there was one incident in particular that very clearly showed what issue always plays a role whenever there is an election in Taiwan: the relationship between Taiwan and its large neighbor, China.

On a tour to South Korea, a young Taiwanese pop star had displayed a Taiwanese flag. Her manager forced her to apologize - for fear of losses in the Chinese market. The 16-year-old girl, intimidated, insisted that both sides of the Taiwan Strait were a part of China, saying that she was proud to be Chinese. The result: a storm of indignation in Taiwan's social networks. Even the new president, Tsai Ing-wen, mentioned the incident in her victory speech.

Bilsky Philipp Kommentarbild App
Philipp Bilsky, head of DW's Chinese serviceImage: DW

This issue - the relations between Taipei and Beijing - was the almost exclusive focus of international attention as well. But the majority of voters in Taiwan itself were most concerned about the island's poor economic situation. In the weeks before the election, Tsai Ing-wen never really said how she stood on the China issue. Although she repeatedly stated that she wanted to maintain the "status quo" in ties with China, she regularly sidestepped the question when asked about the so-called "Consensus of 1992." According to this, Taipei and Beijing agree that there is only one China, although there are various interpretations of what can be understood by that.

Concerns about stability

The international reactions to Tsai's election victory show that concerns about the development of Taiwanese-Chinese relations are still there. The USA emphasized that it shared the interest in "peace and stability" with the Taiwanese. And it even thanked the outgoing president, Ma Ying-jeou, for improvements in the ties between Taipei and Beijing. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said that maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait was of the highest priority to Germany.

At the present moment, no one can credibly predict how the relations between Taiwan and China will develop. However, in her speech, Tsai Ing-wen again stressed that she would not provoke China. She also pledged to cultivate a "reliable relationship" and to ensure a stable environment. This is a sign that the new president of Taiwan is extremely aware of her responsibility regarding the stability of the region.

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