Saturday, March 22, 2008

Taiwan Has a New President

Ma YingJeou (马英九) handily won the election and will become the new President of the Republic of China, aka Taiwan. His victory is viewed as Taiwan's willingness for a closer relationship, at least economically, with the mainland and a step back from confrontation and independence movements.

Although he is considered to be more moderate towards the government in mainland than his opponent, Ma YingJeou is also well-known for his steadfast stance regarding the Tiananmen Massacre.

Back in 1989, Ma was still a young and rising star in the then ruling Nationalist Party, affectionately known as the Little Ma Brother (小马哥). At the time of the massacre, he was in charge of the Mainland Affairs Council, through which he built and maintained personal relations with many Tiananmen leaders who managed to escape from China. He was known to be emotionally involved in the work.

During the summer of 2005, then leaders of the Nationalist Party broke the decades-long ice and visited mainland China for the first time. They created great media frenzy, fanned by the Chinese government. It was Ma YingJeou who publicly stated his belief that before the mainland government overturns its verdict on the Tiananmen Massacre, Taiwan could not start talking about any unification possibilities with mainland.

Now that Ma is in charge in Taiwan, it would be interesting to see if he could hold on to such a tough stance.

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