The premier of Taiwan announced his resignation on Saturday after losing the first election since protests erupted over a controversial trade deal with mainland China. The move by Jiang Yi-huah sets the stage for significant turnover, and possibly reforms, in the East Asian island.
Jiang said he’d step down after his ruling Kuomintang placed second in Saturday’s election, with just over 40% support. The day’s top vote-getter was the Democratic Progressive Party, with more than 47% of the vote.
The election came months after protesters from what Taiwanese media dubbed the “Sunflower Movement” occupied Taiwan’s parliament and hit the streets to rail against the trade agreement between Taiwan and mainland China, its longtime adversary, which was signed in Shanghai last year.
Critics claimed the deal would threaten small businesses in Taiwan and give China greater influence in the island state.
The public uproar held up the trade agreement, and soured relations between China and Taiwan — officially the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China.
Although the two separated in 1949 following a civil war, China still claims Taiwan as its territory. To this day, China is reported to have missiles pointed at the island.
Yet there also have been recent signs of tensions thawing between the two.
For instance, many Taiwanese companies have moved factories to China, while Chinese banks now operate on the island. Six years ago no direct flights existed between the island and the mainland; today there are hundreds of flights a week and tourists are flooding in.