By Faith Hung and Yimou Lee
Taiwan's independence-leaning opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen has taken a convincing victory in the presidential election and pledged to maintain peace with China, which claims the island as its own, though vowed to firmly defend Taiwan's sovereignty.
Tsai, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will be thrust into one of Asia's toughest and most dangerous jobs, with China pointing hundreds of missiles at the island, decades after losing Nationalists fled from Mao Zedong's Communists to Taiwan in the Chinese civil war.
Tsai risks antagonising China if she attempts to forcefully assert Taiwan's sovereignty and reverses eight years of warming China ties under incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalists, whose forces retreated to Taiwan in 1949.
Tsai said she would establish "consistent, predictable and sustainable" relations with China and not be provocative, to ensure the status quo.
"Both sides have a responsibility to do their utmost to find mutually acceptable ways to interact with respect and reciprocity and ensure no provocation and no surprises," Tsai added, having taken more than half the vote.
She added, however, that she would defend Taiwan's interests and its sovereignty. China has not renounced the use of force to ensure eventual unification with the island.
"Our democracy, national identity and international space must be fully respected and any suppression would undermine the stability of cross-Strait relations," she said.
Support for the DPP has swelled since 2014, when hundreds of students occupied Taiwan's parliament for weeks protesting against a China trade bill in the largest display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.
Outside DPP headquarters, supporters cried for joy.
Optometrist David Chen, 28, said he wanted Tsai to stand up to China.
"We're not a part of China. I definitely think we should exist as two countries," he told Reuters. "If it's possible for Tsai, I want her to push for independence. More and more Taiwanese people want this."
Tsai will have to balance the superpower interests of China, which is also Taiwan's largest trading partner, and the United States with those of her democratic home.
The US State Department said it looked forward to working with Tsai.
"We share with the Taiwan people a profound interest in the continuation of cross-Strait peace and stability," it said.