Friday Briefing

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.”

A photo released by the British military said to show a jet taking off from a base in Cyprus to conduct strikes in Yemen.Credit…U.K. Ministry of Defense, via Reuters

The U.S. and a handful of its allies, including Britain, carried out military strikes against more than a dozen targets in Yemen controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, U.S. officials said, in an expansion of the war in the Middle East.

The air and naval strikes came in response to more than two dozen Houthi drone and missile attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea since November, and after warnings to the Houthis in the past week from the Biden administration and several international allies of serious “consequences” if the salvos did not stop. The Houthis have defied that ultimatum.

The Netherlands, Australia, Canada and Bahrain were also expected to provide logistics, intelligence and other support, U.S. officials said.

Separately, Iran’s Navy said it had seized a vessel loaded with crude oil off the coast of Oman.

Response: It was unclear whether the allied strikes would deter the Houthis from continuing their attacks. The Houthis — whose military capabilities were honed by more than eight years of fighting against a Saudi-led coalition — have greeted the prospect of war with the U.S. with delight. “We are comfortable with a direct confrontation with the Americans,” one leader said.

In The Hague: South Africa, on the first day of a two-day hearing at the International Court of Justice, made its case that Israel is acting with “genocidal intent” in Gaza. Israel has categorically denied the accusation of genocide and will present its defense today.

In Gaza: Exhaustive inspections, border crossings and ruined roads are making it harder to get aid to the territory, contributing to a growing humanitarian crisis.

Nearly a quarter of the world’s population, or around 1.84 billion people, was living under drought in 2022 and 2023, the vast majority in low- and middle-income countries, according to a new U.N. report.

The many droughts around the world came at a time of record-high global temperatures and food-price inflation. Last year, the price of rice was at its highest point since 2008.

Background: Some of the abnormally dry, hot conditions are made worse by the burning of fossil fuels that cause climate change. The arrival last year of El Niño, a natural, cyclical weather phenomenon characterized by warmer-than-normal temperatures in parts of the Pacific Ocean, has also very likely contributed.

Marlene Engelhorn, an Austrian heiress, has sent invitations to 10,000 residents of Austria, asking for their help spending 25 million euros, or about $27.4 million, of her inheritance. The money can’t go to groups or people who are “unconstitutional, hostile or inhumane,” and it can’t be invested in for-profit institutions.

“Redistribution must be a process that extends beyond me,” she said.

Naomi Osaka: The tennis star, who gave birth to her first child in July, spoke with The Athletic about how it inspired her to come back to the sport.

Africa Cup of Nations: Your guide to the games, the stars and the stories.

ESPN: The sports broadcaster used fake names to secure more than 30 Emmys for on-air talent ineligible to receive them.

Leveling off: Has Formula 1’s popularity plateaued in the U.S.?

“Mean Girls,” released almost 20 years ago, earned $130 million during its 2004 theatrical run and helped make superstars of its cast. A musical stage adaptation followed in 2018, and this week, a movie musical arrives in theaters. Tina Fey, who wrote the screenplay, spoke to The Times about the movie and its legacy. Read the full interview.

Some jokes and story lines in the original “Mean Girls” haven’t held up so well, and they were altered for later versions. How do you approach updating your writing?

I was writing in the early 2000s very much based on my experience as a teen in the late ’80s. It’s come to no one’s surprise that jokes have changed. You don’t poke in the way that you used to poke. Even if your intention was always the same, it’s just not how you do it anymore, which is fine. I very much believe that you can find new ways to do jokes with less accidental shrapnel sideways.

Were there any cultural shifts that you saw in updating the script from the 2018 stage show to now?

If anything, these behaviors have jumped way beyond just young women. It’s in our politics. It’s in everything. People now like to candy-coat and be very virtuous pointing out why you’re a problem, but it’s the same behavior. It’s still: “Don’t look at me. Look at them. I’m doing great. I might not have nice hair, but she’s fat.”

Review: The musical adaptation retains its ingratiating charms, our critic writes.

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