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Daily Brief: Taiwan Swears in New President

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May 20, 2016

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Taiwan Swears in New President

Former law professor and trade negotiator Tsai Ing-wen took office in Taiwan after winning the presidential election by a wide margin in January. She said China and Taiwan needed to "set aside the baggage of history" to look for progress that benefits both sides (Straits Times), and declined to show support for the so-called 1992 consensus that acknowledged the island and the mainland constitute a single China, instead referring to that year's meeting as a "historic fact." China's Taiwan Affairs office said Tsai "did not make any concrete suggestions for ensuring the stable development of cross-strait ties" (SCMP). In the January election her Democratic Progressive Party won sixty-eight seats in Taiwan's legislature, unseating the long-governing Kuomintang (KMT) party and securing its first-ever majority. Her election makes her a rarity among female leaders in Asia, as she is not connected to a male relative in power (NYT).


"Taiwan split from mainland China in 1949 after a civil war, but has never formally declared independence, despite being a fully fledged democracy. Beijing still considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. China has been clear about its distaste for Tsai since she won the presidency — on the day she was voted in, Beijing warned her against making any move toward formal independence. For her part, Tsai has vowed to maintain the 'status quo' with China and has given a measured response to the recent bouts of diplomatic sparring. But she has also made clear future cross-strait policy will be 'based on the principle of democracy and people’s desires'," writes Amber Wang for Agence France-Presse.

"While cross-Strait relations will continue to be important, Tsai is likely to focus her foremost energies on economic and military reforms at home, while strengthening partnerships with the United States, Japan, Australia, India, and other democracies abroad. From the U.S. perspective, her presidency could not have come at a better time. The United States and China are now firmly entrenched in a competition for dominance over the Pacific Rim, and Taiwan is a center of gravity. The island is located in the world’s busiest maritime and air routes, and it serves as a defensive barrier for keeping Chinese naval power in check. The United States does not covet Taiwan as a base for its military, but it does require that the island remain in the hands of a friendly government," writes Ian Easton for the Diplomat.

"The challenge for the new administration of [President] Tsai Ing-wen will be whether and how to forge further progress in Taiwan’s relations with the mainland. Progress will be difficult so long as Tsai refuses to accept the so-called '1992 Consensus' that maintains that Taiwan and the mainland constitute a single China, albeit with differing understandings of what this means for the two sides. Acceptance of this formula is commonly understood to exclude the possibility of the island’s formal independence, a position that Ms. Tsai’s party has steadfastly rejected, while the KMT openly adheres to the 'one China' principle, implicitly negating the possibility of Taiwan’s secession," says CFR's Jerome A. Cohen in an interview. 

Weekly Podcast

Weekly Podcast

James Lindsay and Robert McMahon discuss Austria's second round of presidential elections, the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and President Obama's trip to Vietnam. Listen and subscribe.



G7 Ministers in Japan Discuss Global Economic Recovery

Central bank chiefs and finance ministers from the Group of Seven developed nations bloc gathered in Sendai to discuss ways to reinvigorate the global economy (Japan Times). The ministers are also expected to address financing for terrorism, offshore tax havens, a Greek debt relief deal, and the United Kingdom's upcoming referendum on exiting the European Union (AFP).


India Records Hottest Temperature in Nation's History

Amidst a severe heat wave across northern India, a town in Rajasthan state registered a temperature of 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit (BBC), topping the previous record of 123.1 degrees in 1956 in another Rajasthani town. Some 4,204 people have died due to seasonal heat waves in India over the past four years (WSJ).

TAJIKISTAN: The Tajik interior ministry surprised observers by asking a group of around two hundred alleged victims of police abuse to come forward with information for the ministry to investigate (RFE/RL). The call follows an outcry on social media over accounts that the group was taken into police custody and beaten after attending a Hindu spring festival.


Wreckage Found in EgyptAir Flight

An Egyptian military spokesman said that debris found in the Mediterranean about 155 miles north of Alexandria (Middle East Eye) is suspected to be from an EgyptAir flight that vanished when en route from Paris to Cairo on Thursday.

IRAQ: The International Monetary Fund offered $5.4 billion in bailout funds to Iraq as the country struggles with slumping oil prices and battles the self-proclaimed Islamic State (FT)


Arrest Warrant for Congo Opposition Leader on Charges of Hiring Mercenaries

Opposition leader Moise Katumbi was charged on Thursday with hiring foreign mercenaries, including former U.S. soldiers, in a plot to topple President Joseph Kabila (FT) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kabila, in office since 2001, is barred from running again but accused of postponing November’s presidential election to extend his term in office.

SUDAN: Sudan's information minister said President Omar al-Bashir is seeking a U.S. visa to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York (VOA). Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region. 


France Extends State of Emergency for Third Time

France's parliament voted to extend its state of emergency, which was first declared after November attacks by Islamists, in order to cover the July Euro 2016 soccer tournament and Tour de France cycling competition (France 24). Meanwhile, Salah Abdeslam, the only known surviving suspect from the November attacks, refused to answer questions in a French court on Friday (France 24).  

MONTENEGRO: Montenegro's prime minister signed an accession agreement paving the way for the country to become the twenty-ninth member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (RFE/RL). Russia has objected to Montenegro's membership amid fears the NATO alliance is increasingly close to its borders.

This CFR Backgrounder discusses NATO's evolution and changing missions since its 1949 creation.


Venezuela to Carry Out Military Exercises With Half a Million Personnel

Amidst an economic and energy crisis and attempts to remove him from office through a referendum, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced two days of military exercises involving half a million personnel to prepare to counter domestic strife or a foreign invasion (AFP). Maduro also announced a team of international leaders to support a process of dialogue with Venezuela's opposition in order to "respect the constitution" (Bloomberg).

MEXICO: Thirty-two police officers were arrested on drug, homicide, kidnapping, and extortion charges in the western state of Michoacán (LAHT).

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