Taiwan's recent election has resulted in a marginal victory for Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), marking the party's third consecutive win in presidential elections. This historic achievement reflects voters' concerns over Taiwan's future amidst increasing pressure from China and domestic issues.
Lai's win has significant implications for Taiwan's relations with an increasingly aggressive China, which had warned against his election. The outcome is expected to provoke Beijing and raise questions about the future of cross-strait relations. The United States, a key partner to both Taiwan and China, will need to carefully manage its relationships with both parties to prevent tensions from escalating.
The election was closely watched by Taiwanese voters, who turned out in large numbers, as well as by China and the US. Lai secured over 5.5 million votes, about 40.1% of the total, defeating the major political party candidate Hou You-ih of the Kuomintang, who received 4.6 million votes, approximately 33.5%. Lai's unexpected victory suggests that most voters support maintaining the status quo on domestic issues and relations with China.
During President Tsai Ing-wen's two terms, Taiwan-China relations have been strained due to various factors, including engagement with the US and Chinese military activities. Tsai's presidency was marked by efforts to keep Beijing at bay while prioritizing Taiwan's defense capabilities. Lai, as Tsai's vice president, is expected to continue her policies, albeit occasionally taking a harsher stance on cross-strait issues.
China views the DPP's third consecutive victory as a threat to its interests and may respond aggressively. Beijing believes that, in the long term, it will achieve unification with Taiwan as the balance of power shifts in its favor. The US, which seeks to deal with Beijing and support Taiwan, will play a crucial role in managing the situation. However, the US-China relationship remains contentious, and tensions persist.
The outcome of the election and subsequent interactions between Taipei, Washington, and Beijing in the coming months will determine China's response. The US will need to navigate its relationship with China carefully, especially after President Joe Biden's summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. While Xi expressed a desire for peaceful reunification with Taiwan, he made it clear that reunification is inevitable. The US, on the other hand, does not support reunification and rejects Taiwan's independence.
The future is uncertain for Taiwan as it faces an increasingly aggressive China. Lai will need to navigate complex external challenges while managing tensions with Beijing and pushing for defense reforms. The election outcome has far-reaching implications, and the international community will closely monitor the situation in Taiwan.