Tsai Ing-wen is set to become Taiwan’s first female president.

Tsai Ing-wen

The opposition candidate from Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has won the island’s presidential election on Saturday, exit polls showed. Tsai Ing-wen is set to become Taiwan’s first female president.

The ruling Nationalist Party has already admitted defeat. Support for the DPP has gone up since 2014, when hundreds of students occupied Taiwan’s parliament for weeks in what appeared to be the largest display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years. But the election comes at a tough time for Taiwan’s export-dependent economy, which plunged into recession last year. One of the biggest challenges for the new president will be to balance the various superpower interests of China (Taiwan’s largest trading partner) and the US with those of Taipei.

Hung Hsiu-chu
Backed by the ruling Nationalist Party members, Hung Hsiu-chu, a former teacher and current deputy legislative speaker, waves as she is nominated as the party’s candidate in the January presidential election, Sunday, July 19, 2015, in Taipei, Taiwan. The top two political parties in Taiwan have each nominated a woman for president in 2016, a historic first signaling acceptance of female leadership and kicking off a campaign highlighted so far by clashing views on ties with political rival China. Hung supportive of friendly relations with China will run against Tsai Ing-wen, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party chairwoman and an advocate of more cautious relations with Beijing.

Tsai risks enraging Beijing if she tries to forcefully assert Taiwan’s sovereignty, reversing years of warming China ties under incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou, whose forces retreated to Taiwan in 1949.

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