On Saturday, Taiwanese voters shrugged off dire warnings from China and elected Lai Ching-te — the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate — as president. The 64-year-old, a seasoned politician who most recently served as the island’s vice-president under Tsai Ing-wen, won 40 per cent of the vote. Turnout was around 72 per cent, three percentage points lower than Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election.
Lai prefers a more assertive position on Taiwan's self-determination and sovereignty. The Kuomintang, more accommodating in its approach to China, won 52 seats in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, while the DPP secured 51, losing its legislative majority. The Taiwan’s People Party — a new party that endorses neither independence from China nor unification — won eight seats. Independent candidates won the remaining two.
Canada, China offer differing reactions to election
Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office noted following the election that “Taiwan is China's Taiwan,” and that the elections “will not impede the inevitable trend of China's reunification.”
Global Affairs Canada issued a congratulatory tweet to the people of Taiwan and stated that Canada looks forward to advancing people-to-people, science, trade, and investment ties with the island. China’s embassy in Ottawa was “strongly dissatisfied” with the tweet.
Trade ties set to strengthen
In December 2023, Canada and Taiwan signed a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Arrangement. At the time, Taiwan noted that the arrangement “will help drive CPTPP countries to recognize that we meet high-standard trade norms.”
More Canada-Taiwan trade co-operation is likely on the horizon. On January 1, Canada assumed the role of Chair of the Commission of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the decision-making body for the 11-member trade pact.
Taiwan’s bid to join the CPTPP, submitted in late 2021, may be formally reviewed this year, setting up a delicate dance for members, who must, eventually, rule on applications from both Taiwan and China.