Taiwan president stepping towards cross-strait trouble: China Daily

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen smiles at supporters as she arrives to vote for party officials in Taipei.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen smiles at supporters as she arrives to vote for party officials in Taipei. PHOTO: EPA

In its editorial on May 25, the paper warns of a new period of turbulence between China and Taiwan.

Despite obvious dissatisfaction with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's failure to endorse the 1992 Consensus that commits to the "one China" principle, Beijing has demonstrated impressive patience.

Such patience got a fresh footnote on Monday (May 23) in Geneva at the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA) when, against speculation that discontented Beijing would regret extending goodwill to the island's then leadership-in-waiting and find fault with Taipei's observer status, Ms Tsai's delegates participated without trouble.

It would not have been a surprise if the anticipated trouble did arise. Because, the presence of the island, which is not a sovereign entity in international law, at the WHA was contingent on Beijing's consent.

Taipei's status as an observer was arranged under the 1992 Consensus.

The mainland has made it clear that many mutually beneficial mechanisms in place would become castles in the air without Taipei committing to "one China".

But just four days into the Tsai era, what have we seen?

On Saturday (May 21), the first day after Ms Tsai's inauguration, her "education minister" announced the syllabus modifications sanctioned by the previous Kuomintang administration in 2014 would soon be abolished.

Those modifications, textbook expressions in conformity with "one China", were meant to correct revisions under a previous independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader and a Kuomintang leader who deemed the mainland and Taiwan to be "two states".

When Ms Tsai and her "cabinet ministers" performed the ceremonial routine on Monday to pay homage to the founding father and martyrs of the "Republic of China", they skipped the symbolic ritual of paying homage to the burial site of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father, on the mainland.

Though Ms Tsai's office denied it indicated an intention to cut links with the mainland, it is impossible to not associate this with the earlier DPP attempt to remove Sun's portraits from public places, which was widely believed to be part of a broader DPP plot to "de-Sinicize" Taiwan.

On Monday evening, in an executive order confirming the appointment of the island's new representative to the United States, Tsai addressed the new envoy, whose official title has always been "representative", as "ambassador".

In both diplomatic practice and international law, only sovereign entities, which Taiwan is not, send "ambassadors" to foreign countries.

Ms Tsai is proving with her deeds that without declaring it she is inclined to de facto separation of the two sides of the Straits.

Unless she finds a way to stop the status quo of cross-Straits ties becoming the status quo ante, a new period of turbulence lies ahead.

* China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 newspapers.