Ma Ying-jeou's supporters celebrate his win over an
opponent from the Democratic Progressive Party
The former mayor of Taipei has overcome corruption charges and his party's often fractious bid to re-invent itself to find his way into the presidential office.

Ma, who was born in Hong Kong and educated at Harvard, has made some big promises, including a normalised trade relationship with the Chinese mainland and eventually a formal peace treaty.

For much of the presidential election campaign, Ma held a seemingly unassailable lead.

Polling indicated his proposal to engage China to stimulate a flagging economy was swinging voters away from decades of political and military stand-off across the Taiwan strait.

But in the dying days of the campaign, China's crackdown in Tibet revived fears of what greater mainland influence in Taiwan might look like.

At the last minute, Ma's platform looked like a liability.

Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou greets
supporters in the final days of his campaign
Asked for a response on the situation in Tibet, Ma found himself drawn into criticising China.

"What the Chinese authorities did in Tibet reminded us of what happened in 1989 in Tianamen Square so I think that what they did I think is not only unwise, but actually stupid," he said.

Ma was elected president, snaring 60 per cent of the vote.

He will be sworn in on May 20, but the challenge facing him is daunting.

How can he balance the need to move closer to Beijing while maintaining Taiwanese sovereignty?

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This episode of 101 East aired on Thursday, April 10, 2008


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Source: Al Jazeera