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Lai Ching-te Takes Oath of Office As Taiwan’s New President

2024 05 20t014019z 1389722650 rc

Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, was inaugurated on Monday, installing a relative moderate who would maintain the self-governing island democracy’s policy of de facto independence while aiming to strengthen its defenses against China.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its own territory and has been increasing its threats to annex it militarily if necessary.

Lai accepted greetings from fellow politicians and delegations from the 12 countries that have established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, as well as politicians from the United States, Japan, and several European countries.

Lai began his political career as mayor of Tainan, a southern city, and advanced to the position of vice president.

He succeeds Tsai Ing-wen, who guided Taiwan through eight years of economic and social development amid the COVID-19 outbreak and China’s growing military threats.

Lai, who served as vice president during Tsai’s second term, had previously come across as more of a firebrand. In 2017, he referred to himself as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan’s independence,” prompting Beijing’s criticism.

He has recently changed his attitude, supporting the status quo across the Taiwan Strait as well as the potential of discussions with Beijing.

Lai will build on Tsai’s efforts to deepen ties with the United States, which does not formally recognize Taiwan as a country but is required by law to supply the island with defense capabilities.

She supervised controversial pension and labour reforms, as well as a one-year extension of military conscription.

She also launched a military modernization campaign, which included a program to develop indigenous submarines costing more than $16 billion each.

Tsai’s leadership during the pandemic divided public opinion, with most applauding Taiwan’s initial ability to keep the virus mostly outside its borders while decrying the lack of investment in quick testing as the pandemic spread.

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