Taiwan, presidential elections are scheduled for next year, with preparations already underway. The voting is set to take place on January 13, 2024, and candidates have already declared their nominations. Regardless of which leader takes the reins of this island nation, it is crucial for them to navigate relations with China, balancing the delicate ties. Taiwan has been under scrutiny globally, and any political moves in the small island nation draw significant attention, especially considering the longstanding tensions with China.
The relationship between Taiwan and China:
Taiwan, with a population of 23 million, is a small island located near China, and China claims sovereignty over Taiwan. Beijing asserts that Taiwan was a part of China until Japan occupied it from 1895 to 1945. The people of Taiwan dispute China’s claims, particularly since the end of World War II when Taiwan came under the administrative control of the Republic of China (ROC) led by the Kuomintang (KMT) party. After the defeat of Japan, a civil war between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) ensued, leading to the KMT’s retreat to Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership.
Under Chiang Kai-shek’s rule, the KMT governed Taiwan until his death in 1975. Following his death, Taiwan transitioned into a multi-party democracy and established democratic governance. Elections are held every four years in Taiwan.
Why do the elections matter globally?
Taiwan is not recognized as an independent nation by the United Nations; only 12 countries maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, the influence of Taiwan’s relations with China has significant global implications. China has consistently asserted its intention to reunify with Taiwan, and tensions between the two have escalated in recent years.
China’s President Xi Jinping stated in 2019 that the reunification of Taiwan is an inevitable historical trend. In 2022, China even discussed amending its constitution to include the use of force to achieve reunification with Taiwan. The international community is concerned that increased tensions or military action between China and Taiwan could disrupt global trade routes in the South China Sea. If conflict arises, it could impact global prices of commodities such as oil and disrupt the semiconductor manufacturing industry.
Candidates in the presidential election:
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate, Lai Ching-te, has served as the Vice President of Taiwan twice. According to the law, he cannot run for the presidency for a third term, but he is contesting the vice presidential election this time.
The Kuomintang (KMT) party’s candidate is Hau Lung-bin, the former mayor of New Taipei City. At 66 years old, Hau recently won the mayoral election last year and is now running for the presidency.
The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate is Ko Wen-je, the former mayor of Taipei. Initially, the TPP was considering an alliance with the KMT, but due to disagreements over the coalition, the party decided to contest the elections independently.
The presidential election in Taiwan holds significance not only for the island nation but also for its impact on regional and global geopolitics. The delicate balance in Taiwan-China relations and the potential consequences of any escalation make it a closely watched event worldwide.