May 20 – Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated Tuesday as Taiwan’s new president, ending eight years of rule by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and pledging to ease almost six decades of tensions with China.
A former mayor of Taipei and Harvard graduate, Ma, 57, is the Nationalist Party leader and his appointment marks the return of the Kuomintang party to power.
“I will faithfully perform my duties, promote the welfare of the people, safeguard the security of the country, and will in no way betray the people’s trust,” Ma said, reading an oath of office.
“Should I break my oath, I shall be willing to submit myself to severe punishment by the country. This is my solemn oath.”
During his presidential campaign, Ma promised to repair China relations by officially ending hostilities with the Communist Party, seeking more economic cooperation and establishing direct air links to the mainland for the first time in almost 60 years.
According to Reuters, direct weekend Taiwan-China flights could start by July and initially allow up to 3,000 Chinese tourists in per day. The new flights hope to cut down travel time for Taiwan investors traveling to China and encourage tourism from the mainland as well.
Ma’s political party is perceived as China-friendly; never having formally abandoned the possibility of eventual unification with the mainland.
The split from China began during the civil war of 1949 when Communist leader Mao Zedong defeated Chiang Kai-shek, who then retreated to Taiwan. Since then, China has claimed Taiwan as part if its territory and vowed to attack should the island make its independence permanent.
KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung and Chinese president Hu Jintao, are scheduled to meet in Beijing next week – another political first not since Mao and Chiang last met in 1945.