A fresh term in office is an opportunity to review and reconsider policies. Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen and United States President Donald Trump’s administration have squandered that chance as the island’s leader begins her second and final four-year stint in the presidency. Her inauguration speech contained the usual defiance towards Beijing, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prompted further anger by sending a message of congratulations from Washington to Taipei . The moves are bound to increase tensions and rivalry at a time when there should be cooperation to fight the coronavirus and ease the economic crisis it has wrought. Tsai revisited the speech she gave after she and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won the January elections by a landslide, vowing to stand up to Beijing. She forcefully rejected President Xi Jinping’s offer of ruling the island under the “one country, two systems” model used to govern Hong Kong, contending it would “downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo”. Beijing’s response was predictable, its Taiwan Affairs Office pointing out there was no alternative means of governance and that no space would be left for “Taiwan independence separatist activities”. The mainland approach is in keeping with the view that there is only one China and reunification is inevitable. Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen faces a big challenge in her second term: Beijing High opinion poll ratings and American support have given Tsai confidence. Pompeo doubtless bolstered her bravado with his congratulations, the first time a senior US official has marked an inauguration of the island’s leader in such a way. He praised her “courage and vision in leading Taiwan’s vibrant democracy” and aggressive efforts to fight Covid-19 , calling its pandemic response “worthy of emulation”. Such language when relations between the US and China have hit new lows only serves to deepen the rift. Trump has expressed a deeper US commitment to Taiwan than his predecessors and that has manifested itself through recent pressure for the island to have representation at the World Health Organisation, despite members having to be sovereign states. The moves follow the US president’s signing into law last month of the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (Taipei) Act, which aims to strengthen and expand the scope of the relationship between Washington and Taipei as well as the island’s ties to countries and international organisations. That has been coupled with a series of American arms sales and a stepped-up military presence in the region. Easing tensions, not provocation, should be the priority. There is every need for common ground, understanding and dialogue. Inflammatory words and actions will only increase risks and dangers. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.