Taiwan election: A jolt to Chinese ambitions?
Student of MA in Defence and National Security Studies from Panjab University. Areas of expertise- Defence, Strategic Issues and International Relations.
In a major turn of events, Tsai Ing-Wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won a landslide victory with 57.1% vote share defeating Chinese-backed Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang (KMT). The election campaign that was marred with a number of controversies against Tsai was expected to deliver a crushing defeat to DPP with pro-Beijing parties launching an all out attack on Tsai, pushing her to the wall. However, her resounding victory has come as a surprise in all quarters within Taipei, pleasant to some and distasteful to others.
The victory of pro-democracy DPP cannot be seen in isolation. Tsai Ing-Wen’s campaign got a shot in the arm with pro-democratic political parties sweeping the local body elections in Hong Kong which were also seen as a referendum on the protests that have roiled the region for months. It is an open secret that the diminishing footprint in both these regions is a reason to worry for the south-Asian giant that swears by the One-China policy.
Despite the fact that Taiwan has been under self-rule since 1949 and has been conducting direct elections since 1996, China maintains that Taiwan derives all its power from it and is an
inseparable part of the mainland. Taipei’s pro-democracy effort finds resonance with a large indigenous population but has put its autonomous status in peril. China has left no stone unturned in subjugating Taiwan, both economically and diplomatically. Its long term strategy is to isolate it even further in order to throw cold water on its pro-democracy aspirations.
For decades, China has stood firmly by ‘One China’ policy whereby Republic of China (Taiwan) is considered a part of People’s Republic of China (PRC) and is not a sovereign state. It has used this policy on the global scale, sending clear message to the international community iterating that it cannot have separate diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Hence, it is anybody’s guess why China was irked beyond measure with United States giving due importance to Taipei and signing trade and security agreements with it. With Donald Trump coming to power in 2016, United States has symbolically upped the ante in favor of Taiwan to coerce China and control its rise in the south Asian region. Having made that point, it must be noted that a US warship sailed Taiwanese waters post a trade deal between Washington and Beijing.
The victory of Democratic Progressive Party has come as a challenge to China which is already grappling with the Hong Kong protests that are in its seventh month now and shows no signs of abating. With DPP coming to power, the echoes for democracy will grow louder. China has, on many occasions, expressed that it can contemplate using force to integrate Taiwan into the mainland. If the calls for democracy find a domino effect, it can pose a big challenge to Xi Jinping. With the
next Congress of the Communist Party of China slated for 2022, Xi cannot afford any uprising, either from Hong Kong or from Taiwan.