Taiwan appoints new premier

Lin Chuans’s resignation puts spotlight on ties with China

Taiwan appoints new premier

Taiwan’s Premier, Lin Chuan, tendered his resignation, raising the possibility of changes in the island’s troubled relationship with mainland China. Lin had asked to leave the post before local elections next year added an unwanted political element to his work, the Presidential Office said on its website that president Tsai Ing-wen reluctantly accepted Lin Chuan’s decision to resign after more than a year in office.

Lin, an economist and former finance minister, was rumored to become the next governor of Taiwan’s central bank; he said that he has no plans to take any government post in the future. Lin said he was stepping down as he had accomplished what he set out to do when he first took office in May last year. “This was to help Tsai implement her reforms to lay the foundation for the government to transform Taiwan's economy and society”, he said.

President Tsai Ing-wen named William Lai to lead the government. Lai, a 57-year-old Harvard-educated physician, served for 11 years in the legislature and since 2010 has been mayor of the southern city of Tainan. He has won praise for his efficient management of the city, including his handling of the aftermath of an earthquake in 2016 that killed 116 people.

Over the past year, China has persuaded two of Taiwan's diplomatic allies to switch sides while its diplomatic and economic pressure on Tsai's administration, causing her job approval rating to plummet to just 28 percent. Since the sides split amid civil war in 1949, China has refused to renounce using force to gain control over Taiwan, if it were deemed necessary.

The government’s popularity has been hit by a series of controversial policies, ranging from holiday cuts to pension reforms, as well as by worsening relations with China. Beijing has cut all official communication with Tsai’s government since she took office in May last year. Her Democratic Progressive Party is traditionally independence and has refused officially to accept that Taiwan is part of “one China”.

However, Huang Kwei-bo, associate professor of diplomacy at National Chengchi University in Taipei, said Beijing was unlikely to see Lai's appointment in a positive light given his pro-independence background. “Taiwan's Premier functions as head of all government ministries and commissions. Traditionally, the president rather than the Premier sets policies on China and foreign affairs”, Huang said.

Tsai’s popularity has dropped from a high of nearly 70 percent when she took power to below 30 percent in several recent polls; some in the democratic progressive party (DPP) blame the unpopular Premier, Lin Chuan, for dragging down her support.

 

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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