The Loss of Patience
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Taiwan’s general election on Jan. 13 will have major implications for the small country that China claims as its own. As the Guardian reported, voters will cast ballots for the presidency and lawmakers who oversee an island the size of Belgium. But leaders from Beijing, Europe, Tokyo, and Washington, DC will be watching the results closely, too.
Domestic issues dominating the election campaigns include the rising cost of living, labor market protections, energy costs, quality education, and senior care. Young voters especially are disillusioned with an economy that can offer them only information technology jobs, noted the Brookings Institution.
The government’s decision to partially restore conscription was unpopular, too. Internationally, the perennial challenge in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei is negotiating relations with China, where communist honchos insist that Taiwan is a breakaway province of their mainland country.
Writing in Reuters Breakingviews, Chan Ka Sing warned that China might feel threatened if the ruling, US-friendly Democratic Progressive Party wins a third term in power, as polls suggest will happen. DPP candidate William Lai Ching-te, who is now vice president, has pledged to maintain the status quo with China, but Chinese officials have labeled Lai as a “dangerous separatist.”
China in recent years has increased military drills around Taiwan and sought to pressure countries that recognize the island as an independent country to instead revise their stance and support China’s claim to suzerainty, Al Jazeera noted. Meanwhile, the US has supplied Taiwan with a formidable arsenal of tools to repel at least the initial waves of any Chinese invasion.
Lai’s main rival, Hou Yu-ih, is an ex-cop who is the candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT), which advocates for closer relations with China, explained the Economist. The former mayor of the suburbs surrounding Taipei has a reputation for efficiency. He advocates talks with the Communist Party to lower cross-strait tensions.
The third contender, Taiwan People’s Party candidate Ko Wen-je, has counseled for patience in diplomacy with China, reported the Associated Press. He has ought to balance the DPP’s instance on Taiwanese sovereignty with the KMT overtures to China. He has appealed to voters, especially the young, who are losing patience with the DPP and the KMT’s failure to address domestic needs and find a stance between war and close friendship with Taiwan’s massive neighbor across the strait, added the China Project.
Ko, meanwhile, is polling second behind the DPP.
China, obviously, would prefer the KMT out of the three parties, but has not been shy in articulating its stance in this election.
For example, in the run-up to the vote, Chinese propagandists have been bombarding Taiwanese and international airwaves with pro-unification rhetoric, Voice of America wrote. Other election interference included economic bans, military demonstrations, and other actions, according to Newsweek.
Taiwan represents how democracy is always an experiment, always fragile, and always courageous.