THE people of Taiwan yesterday elected a new president who had campaigned on a policy of strengthening the island's ties with China. Taiwan, then known as Formosa, was part of China until 1949 when the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek took refuge there after being defeated by Mao Tse-tung's communist forces on the mainland. China has continued to claim Taiwan as an integral part of China and it is therefore remarkable that the Taiwanese people should have voted as they did yesterday at a time that China's handling of events in Tibet is under such strong international criticism. Ma Jing-jeon defeated his nationalist opponent by a wide margin of 58-41 per cent and the size of his majority should strengthen him in his dealings with China in which he will have to balance his belief in increased economic co-operation with the danger of increased political pressures from Beijing. Ma has said, though, that he will not open negotiations while Chinese missiles are still pointed at Taiwan. When choosing a president the Taiwanese were also given the opportunity saying whether they wanted Taiwan to apply for United Nations membership but this was rejected decisively. Between 1949 and 1971 the United States maintained the fiction that Taiwan represented the whole of China and should therefore occupy China's UN Security Council permanent membership with its veto -- which was, of course, always used in support America's policies. In rejecting any new involvement with the UN at this time the Taiwanese showed admirable pragmatism.