It’s official: Tsai Ing-wen, the chair of Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be her party’s candidate for next year’s presidential race. Tsai was uncontested for the nomination. She previously served as the DPP candidate in 2012, when she was defeated by incumbent Ma Ying-jeou 51 percent to 45 percent. Tsai’s chances look better this time around, with the DPP riding high on sweeping victories in last November’s local elections. More seriously, the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is facing something of an identity crisis as it tries to rebrand itself. The KMT does not even have a consensus candidate for next year’s election, and might not decide on one until July or August, according to Want China Times. The most likely contender, KMT Chairman and New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, previously vowed not to run.
As her candidacy officially begins, Tsai will face questions about the DPP approach to cross-strait relations. Ties with Beijing were rocky under the last DPP president, Chen Shui-bian, whom Beijing saw as an advocate for Taiwanese independence. Current President Ma Ying-jeou came to office in 2008 on a promise to revitalize cross-strait relations, resulting in a rapid expansion of economic and people-to-people exchanges.
Tsai promises that the DPP will maintain the “status quo” in cross-strait relations, an attempt to downplay fears that the DPP will seek de jure independence for Taiwan. “It is the DPP’s responsibility to maintain stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai said. In a meeting of the DPP’s China Affairs Committee in January 2015, Tsai acknowledged the importance of cross-strait relations, but also emphasized the need for the relationship to “benefit the national development of freedom and democracy” and to be “mutually advantageous” for both sides of the strait.