What’s at stake in Taiwan’s election
Voters in Taiwan will elect a new president and legislature tomorrow, a much-watched process that could affect the island’s relations with China and the U.S.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has demanded unification, which the island democracy has rejected. The tensions over Taiwan are one of the most divisive issues between Beijing and Washington.
Chris Buckley, a correspondent for The New York Times who is based in Taipei and reports on China and Taiwan, discussed the stakes of the election. Here’s what you need to know.
Why is this election important?
Chris: This election could have important consequences for one of the world’s most difficult and volatile territorial disputes — the future of Taiwan.
The presidential candidates from the two main political parties — the Democratic Progressive Party and the Nationalist Party — both reject the Chinese Communist Party’s framework for unification, called “one country, two systems.” But there are important differences in how they propose to deal with Beijing.
Lai Ching-te, the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate, has promised to keep China at arm’s length. China would most likely step up pressure on Taiwan if he wins. Hou Yu-ih, the Nationalist Party candidate, says he will reduce tensions with China by expanding cross-strait trade and contacts. China would most likely reduce pressure — for a while at least — if he wins, but could also raise expectations of concessions.
What are the possible outcomes, and what would they mean going forward?
The thing you hear most is that this is likely to be a narrow result. Whoever wins, the next president will have to work with a legislature where it’s very likely that no party will have a majority. That means that the next president — and for now, Lai still seems more likely — is going to face more obstacles in implementing policies.
I’d remind readers about the other election this year that matters immensely for Taiwan: the U.S. presidential election. Of course, the outcome of that vote matters for the whole world. But Taiwan depends on the U.S. as its main security backer against China. A second Biden term would probably mean more of the same policies. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee and wins, then there’ll be much more uncertainty about where U.S. policy will go.
For more: Taiwan’s rallies are boisterous and filled with chants of “frozen garlic” — a play on the phrase for “get elected.”
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