Taiwan: A Victory To Cherish – OpEd

Eurasia Review
Date: January 26, 2020
By Observer Research Foundation
By Harsh V. Pant

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. Photo Credit: Taiwan Presidential Office.

One of the biggest political stories of the year so far has been Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen securing a second term in a sweeping electoral victory which saw her frontally challenging the might of China. Her victory allowed her to underscore that “Taiwan is showing the world how much we cherish our free democratic way of life and how much we cherish our nation.” The target of this barb was very clear both in Taipei and in Beijing and as the two recalibrate their relationship, there would be a recognition that perhaps China-Taiwan ties would never be the same again.

In her victory speech, Tsai challenged China to give up brandishing threats to the island, underlining that “peace means that China must abandon threats of force against Taiwan” and hoping that “the Beijing authorities understand that democratic Taiwan, and our democratically elected government, will not concede to threats and intimidation.” It’s a tall order, of course, and Tsai knows it.

But she is a politician who till some time back was facing a sure shot defeat with low wages and controversial pension reform pulling down her approval ratings to as low as 15%. This had resulted in Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) suffering a crushing defeat in the November 2018 local elections while the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) gaining traction primarily due to economic issues. KMT and its leader Han Kuo-yu has been promising closer economic ties with Beijing for economic betterment. Meanwhile, Beijing was busy intimidating Taiwan and Tsai, gradually taking away the limited number of diplomatic partners of Taiwan, banning Chinese tourists from visiting the island and showcasing its military muscle by intruding its air and naval power into Taiwan’s vicinity. In a sign of China’s growing economic heft around the globe that only 15 countries now recognise the self-governing territory of Taiwan as a sovereign nation.

As a result, Tsai would have fought these elections with her back to the wall. But that was not to be as Taiwan’s relationship with China emerged as the central issue in the election campaign and made Tsai the natural choice for most Taiwanese. Beijing’s mishandling of the situation in Hong Kong, in particular, galvanised the Taiwanese voters in defending their national identity. Beijing’s much touted one country, two systems formula is viewed as a failure in Hong Kong and in Taiwan only 4.5 per cent of Taiwanese currently support the idea of “unification” with China.    [FULL  STORY]

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