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June 23, 2017

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China likely to be pleased at outcome of Taiwan's presidential election, referendum votes

BEIJING -- Beijing was likely to be pleased with Nationalist Party Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's election Saturday as Taiwan's next president, a victory China hopes will bring the sides closer to renewing bilateral talks, a leading Chinese scholar said.

Beijing will now expect Ma to move swiftly toward renewing talks on building close transportation and economic links, which have been frozen by Beijing for more than a decade, said Peking University professor Niu Jun.

"It seems to reflect the desire by Taiwan voters to get cross-strait relations back on an even keel, which is something the mainland wants too," the professor said after it was announced that Ma was to replace Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, long-reviled by Beijing for his pro-independence views.

Beijing claims self-governing Taiwan as Chinese territory and has threatened to invade the island to block its formal independence.

There was no direct, immediate comment from the Chinese government or ruling Communist Party on the election result. Niu said he did not expect any new initiatives from Beijing, saying the sides had already reached partial agreements when Nationalist politicians visited China earlier.

"It's not a question of adjusting policy, but rather of consolidating the consensus already reached," Niu said.

Beijing suspended talks in part due to Taipei's refusal to recognize Beijing's "one China policy" under which Taiwan is considered a part of China.

China's official Xinhua News Agency reported on Ma's victory in what it called the island's "leadership election" reflecting Beijing's refusal to recognize Taiwan's government or any trappings of the island's sovereignty.

Ma's win should be relatively palatable to Beijing because the Nationalists ostensibly favor unification between the sides, which split amid civil war in 1949.

Beijing will also likely be happy at the failure of a pair of referendums on Taiwan's application to join the United Nations. Election Commission figures show that about 5.5 million yes votes were counted Saturday for a measure on joining the U.N under the name Taiwan. It says 4.9 million yes votes were counted for the other measure, which was on joining under the official name of the Republic of China or an undefined alternative. Approximately 8.5 million votes were necessary for passage.

China has railed against the first measure, calling it a dangerous step toward independence, and has rallied U.S. and other international powers in opposing it.

On Friday, China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, warned that the referendum "seriously threatens peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and Asia Pacific region."

"The current situation in the Taiwan Strait is highly complex, sensitive," Yang said in a statement posted on the ministry's Web site, described as a written response to questions posed by Russian media.

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