Taiwan’s opposition party has upended growing cross-strait cooperation with its sweeping victory in Saturday’s local elections.
Mainland China and Taiwan have been drawing closer economically, with both sides removing some barriers to integration with an eye on eventual resolution of the island’s political status, the Financial Times reported Monday.
On Saturday, the Kuomintang, Taiwan’s nationalist party, suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of young voters worried about the rising cost of living and real estate while jobs move to mainland China.
Concerns about the mainland’s growing influence crystallized during the Sunflower movement this spring, when student activists stormed the legislature to block a pact that would have freed up trade in services, for fear it would increase the island’s economic dependence on its much larger rival.
“Last night’s result was a political slaughter for the KMT,” says George Tsai, a political analyst at National Chengchi University in Taiwan.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah stepped down hours after the vote to take responsibility for the loss.
Party insiders said President Ma Ying-jeou might resign as head of the KMT in a party meeting on Wednesday, according to reports.
Ma has been the face of rapprochement with the mainland. His term as president ends in a little over a year, and this weekend’s victory for the Democratic Progressive party puts the opposition in a strong position for the next presidential election in early 2016.
“I’ve received the message people have sent via these elections. It’s my responsibility and I will quickly offer a party reform plan to address everyone’s demands. I won’t avoid responsibility,” Mr Ma told a news conference.
China’s former leader, Hu Jintao, backed a friendlier approach to Taiwan, after decades of sabre-rattling failed to convince Taiwanese they would be better off under Beijing’s rule.
His successor, Xi Jinping, has taken a stronger line domestically and in foreign policy as he consolidates power. China’s stronger stance particularly in the South China Sea has resulted in a series of counter-alliances around Asia.
Xi took a slightly more conciliatory tone in a foreign policy speech carried in official media on Saturday night but still vowed to “firmly uphold China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests and national unity”.
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