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SUSAN STAMBERG, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away. I'm Susan Stamberg.

Taiwan has a new president this morning. Ma Ying-Jeou, the candidate of the Opposition Nationalist Party and a former mayor of Taipei, declared victory over former premier Frank Hsieh, the ruling party candidate. Mr. Ma's win signals that Taiwan is poised to ease away from the pro-independence policies favored by the outgoing president, Chen Shui-bian.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Taipei. Tell us what the Ma victory means for future political and economic relations between Taiwan and mainland China.

ANTHONY KUHN: First of all, Mainland China is going to have to realize that Mr. Ma got a very big mandate. He got 60 percent of the vote to his rival's 40 percent. So they have to realize that he represents the opinion here. Basically, what people were saying with this vote is that they believe that Taiwan's economic future is part of a greater China market. What Ma stands for basically is not independence, as Chen Shui-bian was pushing for, also not reunification with mainland China until it becomes more democratic. Everyone was thinking that the unrest in Tibet would affect this vote. But in fact, it's a very different situation, as Ma pointed out. Taiwan is essentially an independent nation in everything but name. And so I think people accept the fact the Ma is going to protect Taiwan and not sell out to the mainland as his critics claim.

STAMBERG: And what other significance of a Nationalist Party victory?

KUHN: Well, the Nationalist Party is a very old party in over - through the Qing dynasty in 1911, and it ruled in Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war for about 50 years, at times with an iron fist. Many would say not different from the way the communists had ruled China. But they were defeated by the DPP in elections in 2000, and they spent eight years out of power. And so now their task in coming back to power is to show people that they are reformed, that they are not the corrupt regime that they were when they were in power and that they are going to get down to the business of jump-starting Taiwan's rather stagnant economy right now, and people seem to believe them and want to give them this mandate now.

STAMBERG: Now, this new president has proposed a formal peace treaty with China. What are the terms of that?

KUHN: Well, he's going to start on the economic front, and what he's going to do is increase transportation links. Taiwan's manufacturing sector has mostly migrated to the mainland. But at the moment, there are very, very few direct air links. And so he's going to start with those, and he's going to try to integrate the two countries more economically. He's going to try and free up investment on the mainland. As far as politics is concerned, he is willing to deal with the mainlanders. And what he's trying to say is, let's put aside ideology - the question of one China and whether the one China is represented by Taiwan or the mainland. So I think he's going to proceed cautiously, and part of his mandate is the realization by Taiwanese people - that they have a very separate identity which needs protection.

STAMBERG: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Taipei, Taiwan. Thank you.

KUHN: Thank you.

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