Ms Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected President of Taiwan after winning a landslide in last weekend’s elections and has called on Beijing to “face reality” and show her country “respect”. Her campaign focused heavily on the rising threat from Beijing, which has always laid claim to Taiwan. The Chinese Communist Party has consistently argued that the island-state is an irrefutable part of China and has claimed the right to use force to take it back if necessary.
Taiwan’s President declared that her resounding victory at the polls settled the question of the island’s sovereignty once and for all, which she emphasised was not up for negotiation.
In an interview with the BBC, she said: “We don’t have a need to declare ourselves an independent state.
“We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan.”
China has always reacted furiously to any suggestions of Taiwanese independence.
Beijing insists on the use of the One China concept, as a basis for developing political and economic ties between the two states.
The notion of One China in effect rules out the possibility of an independent Taiwan and has proved a useful compromise in the past.
However, Ms Tsai Ing-wen believes that her victory shows how little support there is among her fellow citizens for the One China principle and the ambiguities it creates about Taiwanese real political status.
She explained: “The situation has changed.
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“So, if there’s anything that runs counter to this idea, they will stand up and say that’s not acceptable to us.
“We’re a successful democracy, we have a pretty decent economy, we deserve respect from China.”
Many of her critics have accused Ms Tsai Ing-wen of unnecessarily provoking their powerful neighbour with her stance.
Taiwan’s President refutes these allegations, saying on the contrary, she has shown restraint, by stopping short of declaring full independence or changing the constitution, as demanded by some in her Democratic Progressive Party.
China has made it clear that it would regard any such moves as a pretext for military action.
Ms Tsai Ing-wen fully expects China’s leaders to increase the pressure on her country and is developing plans to counter the anticipated onslaught.
In particular, she is trying to expand Taiwan’s trading relationships with other parts of the world, to ensure that the economy is not dependent on Chinese trade.
She is also planning for the possibility of armed conflict, telling the BBC that “you have to get yourself prepared and develop the ability to defend yourself.”
She warned Beijing that “invading Taiwan is something that is going to be very costly for China”.