Over 50 countries will go to the polls in 2024, including Russia, India, El Salvador, South Africa, the United States, and Taiwan.
The elections will have huge implications worldwide, ranging from human rights to international relations to the status of democracies.
Taiwanese Pre-Election Campaigning
Taiwan’s elections are scheduled for Saturday, January 13, and the results are likely to affect Taiwan’s relationship with China, relations between the US and China, and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.
Campaigning is in full swing. News reports usually focus on the serious with headlines like the one in Politico this morning, reading “Taiwan bombarded with cyberattacks ahead of elections.”
Surprisingly, though, the usually ‘uber’ serious New York Times has a fun piece titled ‘Frozen Garlic!’ Taiwan Likes Its Democracy Loud and Proud.’
Even more fun, Netflix has a series highlighting election rallies and campaigning in Taiwan. It’s called Wave Makers, and is subtitled in English. You can watch the eight episodes while you’re waiting for the results to come in.
Let’s Get Serious
But back to the serious! What about China?
According to Foreign Policy:
Since Taiwan began holding direct presidential elections in 1996, Beijing has pursued heavy-handed intimidation and coercive pressure during election seasons . . .
This time, the opposition candidates failed to unite, so it is a three-pronged election. Here’s a little about each candidate.
- The ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate, William Lai, is now the country’s vice president. The current DPP president, Tsai Ing-wen, is ineligible to run because of term limits. He has stressed that the self-ruled island’s future and its relations with Beijing must be decided by its people.
- The Kuomintang’s (KMT) candidate, Hou You-yi, is the popular mayor of New Taipei City and a former police chief. He opposes Taiwan independence in favor of the status quo.
- The Taiwan People’s Party’s (TPP) candidate, Ko Wen-je, is a former Taipei mayor, who founded the TPP in 2019 and seeks to appeal to voters who are tired of the two major parties and want something new. His views on China fall somewhere between the DPP and KMT; he has called for both “deterrence and communication” with China.
The DPP’s William Lai appears to be the frontrunner at this time. Beijing, on the other hand, would prefer a KMT-ruled Taiwan and could respond to a potential third DPP term by further increasing pressure on the island.
US Policy Toward Taiwan
US President Biden has reaffirmed the United States’ “One China” policy based on three foundational communiqués and the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. You can read more about the US and its Pull Out from Taiwan here.
Despite Biden’s affirmations, Axios notes that
The U.S. has strong unofficial ties to Taiwan and President Biden has repeatedly said the U.S. would defend Taiwan if China attacked — though official U.S. policy regarding the defense of Taiwan is known as “strategic ambiguity,” meaning the U.S. won’t publicly state its actual intention.
There is growing support for arming and defending Taiwan in Congress; high-level visits, stepped-up military aid, and pending legislation deepening US -Taiwanese ties have raised hackles in Beijing.
Axios further states that Taiwan is particularly critical to the West because
The nation is home to semiconductor manufacturer TSMC, the only facility in the world that makes certain critical components for smart phones, cars, and satellites.
Cold War Studies has published many articles on Taiwan’s economic and democratic development during the Cold War. Click here to scroll through them and hone in on your interest.
The following are recommended if you’d like to read about Taiwan’s democratic transition:
Taiwan has a long history of activism. You can read about Cold War activism here.
Read about Taiwan’s road to democracy in the following posts:
Just In: William Lai of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has won Taiwan’s presidential election.
Photograph by Mingyang Su (Flickr)