Even as many of the world's electorates — most notably in the United States — are tilting toward the extremes, voters in Taiwan have bucked the trend and chosen the middle road. The election on Jan. 16 of Tsai Ing-wen, chair of the Democratic Progressive Party, as president is a signal that, however hesitant Taiwanese voters may be about entering into a deeper embrace with China, they also want to avoid a rupture in the relationship with their powerful neighbor and former antagonist.

Tsai, who will be Taiwan's first female president, is said to have once supported Taiwanese independence, but she avoided expressing similar sentiments during the campaign, pledging instead to maintain the status quo. Indeed, she was careful to distance herself from her mentor, former President Lee Teng-hui, an outspoken supporter of a clear break with China.

Tsai's victory over the China-friendly Kuomintang implies that relations with the mainland — which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that it will eventually reclaim — will be considerably more measured. Moreover, as a former law professor, she is likely to be a stickler for details in any negotiations with China.