China on Monday struck a warning note aimed at Taiwan's president-elect Tsai Ing-wen, who swept to victory in general elections at the weekend, saying her win posed "grave challenges" to peaceful ties with Beijing, which has never ruled out the use of force against the democratic island.
Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won not just the presidency but a first-time majority in the island's parliament, ousting the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) from the presidency and relegating it to the status of opposition party for the first time in Taiwan's history.
The official Chinese media, which is closely controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said fears that the island would move towards formal independence were "ratcheting up" with Tsai's victory.
But it stopped short of the kind of political invective it once levelled at the last DPP president, Chen Shui-bian.
"There is no denying that the DPP's return rule poses grave challenges to cross-Strait relations," state news agency Xinhua said in an editorial on Monday which put Tsai's victory down to "mistakes" by the KMT, rather than a popular upsurge of support for independence.
In Taiwan, Tsai's supporters said the election result is a victory for the island's local identity.
"I think the majority of Taiwanese people are very happy about the DPP's victory, in particular, native Taiwanese [as opposed to post-1949 migrants from mainland China]," a supporter who gave only his surname Chang told RFA. "This is a new generation, a new victory."
Alive and kicking
A fellow DPP supporter surnamed Chiu said the election showed the spirit of democracy is alive and kicking in the island, where many fear that Beijing has already began to manipulate political life from behind the scenes.
"I hope that we will now be able to move towards a future in which we are the masters of our own fate," Chiu said. "In particular, the next generation of young people can now integrate with the older generation and work together in that spirit, to take it forward."
Political commentator Hsu Szu-chien said he now sees constitutional reform as a necessary, but long-term, gradual process.
"We are talking about a natural process of constitutional reform; that's the only way that would be appropriate," Hsu said. "It's also easier to talk about in an international context that way, and it will take a while to simmer in people's minds."
"Of course we need constitutional reform in the long term. But people can't expect this DPP administration to implement it; it'll take much longer to build a broad popular movement for constitutional change."
The Chinese Communist Party and the KMT nationalist party were bitter foes during a civil war that flared up after the defeat of Japan in World War II, and the KMT government fled to the island from Chongqing after losing to Mao Zedong's Soviet-backed communist forces.
The Taipei government sees itself as the legal continuation of the KMT regime that began with Sun Yat-sen's 1911 revolution and the fall of the Qing dynasty, while Beijing says Taiwan is a province that must one day be united with the mainland, and has threatened to use military force if the island seeks independence.
Beijing wants clarification
Meanwhile, Xinhua's editorial also called on Tsai to clarify her position with regard to Beijing.
"If the DPP sincerely intends to maintain the status quo, it must give a clear answer to the key question of whether it supports the 1992 Consensus," the article said in a reference to an accord between Beijing and the KMT that assumes both governments are part of a single China, albeit with differing interpretations of what that means.
Analysts say the eventual outcome of the "one China" policy would be reunification under the "one country, two systems" model in place in Hong Kong. But Beijing's refusal to allow fully democratic elections in the former British colony, and its intolerance of the 2014 pro-democracy movement have made that prospect less appealing for many in Taiwan.
Tsai on Saturday pledged to work to maintain the status quo "for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait." She called for reciprocity to ensure that "no provocations or accidents take place."
Meanwhile, Taiwan expert Zhang Hua of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said Tsai's victory is linked to changes in the way younger Taiwanese see themselves.
"Taiwan's young generations have developed a multifaceted national identity," Zhang wrote in a commentary in the Global Times newspaper on Monday. "This is the gravest challenge for the mainland's cross-Straits policy."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei meanwhile warned the United States not to "interfere in China's internal affairs."
"Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory and Taiwan affairs are China's internal affairs," Hong told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
"We urge the U.S. side to do more things that are conducive to the stable development of China-U.S. relations and peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait, not vice versa," Hong said.
Reported by Chung Kuang-cheng and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Miao Chiu-jyu for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.