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Taiwanese president wins reelection, vows closer ties to China

January 14, 2012 |  9:44 am

REPORTING FROM TAIPEI, TAIWAN, AND BEIJING -- Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou won reelection Saturday, a mandate that he vowed in a victory speech in Taipei will spell more trade and economic links with the island’s old foe, China.

Ma won 51% of the vote compared to his chief rival’s 46% after a tense campaign packed with criticism of his overtures to China.  He had urged voters to see his attempts at rapprochement as stimulus for the economy, but was accused of getting too cozy with Taiwan’s rival of more than 60 years.

"Ma will feel he now has a mandate to do what he wants, though if he goes too far people will be very unhappy,” said Bruce Jacobs, Asian studies professor at Monash University in Australia. “China, I think, is happy that Ma has won."

And indeed, Beijing applauded the results. "We are willing to join hands with Taiwan's all walks of life on the basis of continuing to oppose the Taiwan independence," read a statement released by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, China’s equivalent of a Cabinet.

The People’s Daily, run by the Chinese Communist Party, hailed Ma’s reelection with an editorial that went up shortly after the results were announced.

"Ma Ying-jeou's victory was the choice made by Taiwan's people. This result shows that seeking peace, growth and stability is the mainstream thought in Taiwan. It will further enhance cross-strait relations and benefit people on both sides. It's the common wish for all people in Taiwan."

Although the China-friendly incumbent was clearly the preferred candidate, Beijing maintained a coy silence during the campaign, fearing that any overt support for Ma could backfire. The few official commentaries in the state media were cautious in their criticism of his chief rival, Tsai Ing-wen.


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Photo: Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou declares victory in the country's presidential election Saturday in Taipei, Taiwan. Credit: Vincent Yu/Associated Press