Taipei, Taiwan (CNN) – Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female president, was sworn into office Friday, facing two very different sets of expectations — from those who voted for her and a Chinese leadership that wants the island on a tight leash.
Although she was given a strong mandate in the January elections, with her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) gaining control of the executive and legislative branches of government, a souring relationship with Beijing could undermine her ability to accomplish what she has set out to do at home.
In her inauguration speech, Tsai struck a measured tone, attempting to reassure Taiwan’s people and the international community that she can handle the island’s complicated relationship with China.
She said she wouldn’t dismantle any of the existing channels for communication between the two and vowed that Taiwan would be a “staunch guardian of peace.”
“We will work to maintain peace and stability in cross-strait relations,” she said.
Her address ended with choirs singing “Ilha Formosa” a poetic song that became an anthem for pro-democracy groups in Taiwan.
China criticized Tsai’s speech, calling it “vague” and “an incomplete answer sheet,” in a statement issued by the Taiwan Affairs Office.
“She didn’t come up with specific ways to ensure peaceful and stable development of the cross-strait relations,” the statement said.
“She was vague on the nature of cross-strait relations that concerns people on both sides the most.”
In April, Taiwan accused China of carrying out “gross violation of basic human rights” after 45 Taiwanese were deported from Kenya to mainland China.
They were then paraded on Chinese state TV confessing to crimes they had been acquitted for in Kenya.
“It seems clear that China is pressuring the Tsai administration even before it has formally come to office,” says Bruce Jacobs, a Taiwan specialist at Monash University in Australia before the inauguration.