Current Events, Downsized: Why is China so mad?


On Jan. 16, Taiwan elected its first female president: Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party. With 56.1 percent of the vote, Tsai defeated the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) candidate Eric Chu, according to the Central News Agency.

At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Chu conceded defeat to Tsai and congratulated Tsai on her victory.

In addition to winning the presidency, the DPP won 68 of the 113 seats in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, marking the first time the KMT lost a majority in Taiwan’s parliament.

In the past, the liberal and progressive DPP has supported an independent Taiwan and has rejected the 1992 “One China” policy while the KMT has advocated for more peaceful interactions with mainland China.

However, Tsai has said in her acceptance speech that both Taiwan and China “have a responsibility to do their utmost to find mutually acceptable ways to interact … and ensure no provocation and no surprises.” While Tsai has shared her openness to fostering better relations with China, she has also remained committed to protecting the Taiwanese democracy.

What will this mean for China?

In response to Tsai’s victory, the Chinese official Xinhua news agency warned the new Taiwanese president about the repercussions of an independence movement.

The editorial recognized the societal differences between China and Taiwan but wrote that “under no circumstance should the differences be used as excuses to seek Taiwan independence, which means war, as the mainland’s Anti-Secession Law suggests.”

With missiles pointed towards Taiwan, China does not mess around when it comes to protecting their authority over territory.

In 2005, during the presidency of Hu Jintao, the National People’s Congress ratified the Anti-Secession Law, which gives China the power to use non-peaceful means to combat Taiwan’s independence movement if Taiwan did ever declare independence.

In addition, the Chinese Foreign Minister reaffirmed that there is truly only “One China” and that Taiwan is not its own sovereign nation in response to the recent election.

This policy of “One China” originated in 1992 and has led to significant disagreements between mainland China and Taiwan. Mainland China, or the People’s Republic of China, claim that its communist government is the only government of China – which includes Taiwan. Taiwan, or the Republic of China, claims that its the only government of mainland China and Taiwan.

After eight years of KMT control, China and Taiwan began to improve their diplomatic relations. President of the PRC Xi Jinping met President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan in Singapore last November, marking the first time the Chinese president ever encountered the Taiwanese president.

However, this new DPP government may pose a threat to the strong cross-strait relations of the previous KMT government.

Although China has threatened to use non-peaceful force, Tsai’s more pragmatic views of cross-strait relations will most likely not end in a military response, but China remains wary about a DPP government and the implications of a free Taiwan.

And based on China’s past responses to insubordination such as the Falun Gong movement or the Uyghur independence movement, I can only predict that China will come down hard on the insurrection.

What will this mean for the United States?

Prior to 1979, the United States did not recognize the People’s Republic of China but rather viewed the Republic of China as the official government of China. However, after the ending of a Maoist China, the United States viewed Beijing as the official capital of China and moved diplomatic headquarters from Taipei to mainland China.

The U.S. has maintained informal relations with Taiwan and remains a key ally of Taiwan without recognizing Taiwanese statehood.

While the U.S. (typically) strives not to anger China, last year the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act Affirmation and Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2014, which allowed the U.S. to provide the ROC military with U.S. military frigates, anti-tank missiles and other weaponry. President Obama also agreed to $1.83 billion worth of weaponry to the ROC Armed Forces in December 2015.

These actions to supply Taiwan with military equipment resulted from disputes with China over the sovereignty of the South China Sea.

Under the new DPP government, the U.S. will not likely support any independence movement and will work to foster positive cross-strait relations in order not to provoke the PRC.

Why should this matter to me?

This election occurred thousands of miles away on an island the United States does not even consider to be a country. I get it – It can be hard to understand why anyone would care.

But another woman has been elected as president.

According to Pew Research Center, 63 out of the 142 nations studied by the World Economic Forum have had a female leader in the past 50 years. China, Australia, Portugal, Pakistan, France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Madagascar have all had female leaders.

Every time another woman takes power as head of state or government I am genuinely thrilled. I am so excited for President Tsai to have an opportunity to serve as the first female president in her country.

However, like all humans, I get jealous. I begin to think: why not us? How come a country that champions civil rights and equality has never elected a female president?

At one point, America never thought we would elect a Catholic president. Then we elected John F. Kennedy. At one point, America never thought we would elect a divorced president. Then we elected Ronald Reagan. At one point, America never thought we would elect an African American president. Then we elected Barack Obama.

As a young woman, I want to believe I can do anything I want. But until we have elected a female president (whether it be Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina), I know it is not true.

In the meantime, congratulations to President Tsai. I am overjoyed to have another woman serve as the head of state and I hope the United States can soon follow in Taiwan’s footsteps in electing a female president.