Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s president-elect, has vowed to safeguard the island’s de facto independence from China and further align it with other democracies.
Lai, 64, emerged victorious in the Jan. 13 election on the island of 23 million people, which China claims as its own. He is currently vice president with the Democratic Progressive Party, which has rejected China’s sovereignty claims over Taiwan.
It’s the first time a single party has led Taiwan for three consecutive four-year presidential terms since the first open presidential election in 1996.
Speaking to supporters, Lai vowed Taiwan would “continue to walk side by side with democracies from around the world.”
“We are telling the international community that between democracy and authoritarianism, we will stand on the side of democracy,” he said.
Lai has vowed to strengthen the island’s defense and economy, which depends heavily on trade with China. He has also made an effort to soften his earlier stance as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan independence.”
China had called the poll a choice between war and peace. Beijing strongly opposes Lai, who abandoned his medical career to pursue politics from the grassroots to the presidency.(AP)