THE long and gruelling Taiwan election campaign has finally reached its startling close. Now the truly hard part begins. The untested new president, sometimes-advocate of Taiwanese independence Chen Shui-bian, faces two daunting tasks as he prepares for his four-year term. First, he must find a way to keep the peace with mainland China, which has threatened war if he follows through on past pledges to declare Taiwan a sovereign state. Beyond that, he needs to fulfil the reform pledges that helped bring him victory. The Beijing relationship comes first. Mr Chen's victory statement reinforced a common belief that he won't make drastic moves that could provoke the mainland into military action. For weeks, Mr Chen has been edging away from some of his own prior statements, as well as from some by other leaders of his Democratic Progressive Party. In fact, Mr Chen has been busily tossing olive branches across the Taiwan Strait, hoping to persuade Beijing (and worried governments elsewhere) that his plans are peaceful and not confrontational. He has offered to meet Beijing in guises that would bypass protocol issues which so inflame mainland leaders. The new president takes office with only a 39 per cent plurality; he was no overwhelming electoral choice. With the rival Kuomintang Party controlling the legislature, he will face enormous obstacles when honouring pledges to fight KMT cronyism and corruption. Even without a China problem, his tenure would be difficult. The next move is up to Beijing. If its leaders take a sophisticated view, they will recognise that personal character and promises of clean government tipped the vote Mr Chen's way - a 'sovereignty now' platform would have lost once again. This should encourage a measured reaction, perhaps one of accepting his offer for new talks and trade ties. Another lesson from the election is worth noting, and not only on Taiwan. The KMT led it into great prosperity and the global economy, and in the end gave it democracy as well. But for years the party used state power and payoffs to retain office, and public resentment grew. When given credible choices, more than 75 per cent of all voters turned against it. If Mr Chen fails to pursue reform, or earns blame for any future rifts with the mainland, his DPP may fare no better the next time voting comes around.