Chinese officials have indicated that they want Ms. Tsai to accept the so-called 1992 Consensus that Taiwan and the mainland are part of one China, each side with its own interpretation of what that means. That understanding formed the basis of the warming ties between the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, in Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party over the past eight years.
Ms. Tsai acknowledged the history of discussions between the two sides on Friday, though she stopped short of endorsing the consensus.
The 1992 meetings between unofficial representatives of the two sides were “done in a spirit of mutual understanding and a political attitude of seeking common ground while setting aside differences,” she said. “I respect this historical fact.”
The foundations of cross-strait relations, she said, are the 1992 talks and the 20 years of negotiations that followed; the constitutional system of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s official name; and the island’s democratic principles.
“The two governing parties across the strait must set aside the baggage of history, and engage in positive dialogue, for the benefit of the people on both sides,” she said.
In a lengthy statement released Friday afternoon by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, the country’s Taiwan Affairs Office noted Ms. Tsai’s comments but said she did not go far enough. The statement said the “Taiwan authorities’ new leader” had “adopted a vague attitude, and didn’t clearly acknowledge the ’92 Consensus.”
It called her remarks “an incomplete examination paper.”
Ms. Tsai has pledged to maintain the cross-strait status quo, but she is expected to take a much warier approach to relations with China than did her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party.
Under Mr. Ma, trade and contacts with China expanded, but voters in Taiwan grew concerned about the mainland’s growing influence over the island. That contributed to the defeat of the presidential candidate from Mr. Ma’s Nationalist Party and its loss of control of the legislature.
Taiwan has been separately governed since 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island after his Nationalist forces lost China’s civil war to Mao’s Communists. Mainland China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and says they must eventually be unified.
The Taiwan Strait has been a tinderbox at times over the past half-century, but the last eight years saw a period of détente, as Mr. Ma promoted deepening ties between the two sides. Still, the Pentagon warned last week that China’s military capabilities have grown dramatically and that its defense budget is now about 10 times that of Taiwan’s.
Since Ms. Tsai’s election, China has taken steps indicating that it would take a much more aggressive approach to her government and renew its challenges to Taiwan’s limited international recognition. (Taiwan is recognized by 22 states, including the Vatican.)
Dozens of telecommunications fraud suspects from Taiwan were deported from Kenya and Malaysia to China, eliciting protests from officials in Taiwan. China has also resumed relations with Gambia, a small state in Africa that had previously recognized Taiwan’s government.
In another development that was seen here as resulting from Chinese pressure, Taiwan’s invitation to participate as an observer in the World Health Organization’s annual assembly, first extended during Mr. Ma’s initial term, came this year with an explicit reference to the principle that Taiwan and mainland China are part of “one China.” A spokesman for Ms. Tsai’s government said it would participate in the event in the interest of public health, though it does not accept the “one China” principle and said the W.H.O. was mistaken to mention it.
Just days before the inauguration, China’s military conducted large-scale drills on the mainland’s southeastern coast, near Taiwan. While China’s Defense Ministry said the exercises had no particular objective, in Taiwan they were widely considered another signal to the incoming government.
And finally, visits by tourists from the mainland dropped 10 percent in March from the previous month, raising concerns that China was beginning to wield its vast economic clout to punish Taiwan.
Many observers expect cross-strait ties to deteriorate during Ms. Tsai’s tenure. But they note that both China and Taiwan face slowing economies and other domestic issues, giving them incentives to avoid serious damage to their relationship.
“I think we’re going to have sort of a cold peace for a while,” said Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The inauguration ceremony on Friday was filled with evocations of the long road to democracy in Taiwan, which first directly elected its president just 20 years ago. Performances included depictions of an infamous 1947 massacre of civilians by government forces, as well as recent student-led protests.
“Once again, the people of Taiwan have shown the world through our actions that we, as a free and democratic people, are committed to the defense of our freedom and democracy as a way of life,” Ms. Tsai said.
Ms. Tsai said she would establish a truth-and-reconciliation commission in the presidential office to examine the legacies of Taiwan’s authoritarian era. She also said the new government would take an “apologetic attitude” in dealing with the concerns of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.
But Ms. Tsai’s priority will be bolstering Taiwan’s economy, which has contracted for three consecutive quarters. Exports have fallen for 15 straight months.
She cited her campaign pledge to focus on developing the biotech, green technology, advanced manufacturing and defense industries. She also said she would push for Taiwan to join trade blocs including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But the Washington-led TPP, which already faces growing skepticism in the United States Congress, also has obstacles in Taiwan. Taiwan bans American pork from pigs treated with the veterinary drug ractopamine, and many legislators here do not support dropping that restriction to meet the trade deal’s requirements.
China could also try to keep Taiwan out of regional trade agreements. “Beijing was willing to look the other way under Ma but not under Tsai,” Sean King, a senior vice president at Park Strategies, a consulting firm based in New York, said in an email.
But Ms. Glaser, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said further efforts to challenge the new government would probably harm China’s long-term goal of courting the people of Taiwan, with an eye toward eventual reunification.
“The Chinese seem to believe they can pursue a harsh policy towards the government here and continue to woo the hearts and minds of the people, that somehow they could have two different policies,” Ms. Glaser said. “I think they really believe that, and to me that’s complete nonsense.”
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