Key election on Saturday in Taiwan . . .
Taiwan’s 19 million voters are heading to the polls tomorrow to elect the president and members of parliament (Legislative Yuan). Since the first direct presidential election in 1996, each election in Taiwan has been symbolic of and affected cross-strait relations with China by either easing or increasing tensions. But this election is of particular importance as it could, depending on the results, trigger a recalibration of China’s Taiwan policy. The current president, Tsai Ing-Wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, is expected to win, as she polls steadily at 50 per cent while her main opponent, from the pro-China opposition Nationalist Party that is for closer relations with China, trails at about 20 per cent. But with the high stakes of the ballot, the results are ‘all but a foregone conclusion’.
Allegations of interference . . .
China considers the election in Taiwan a local election in one of its provinces and claimed it is not seeking to interfere in the vote. Many reports have however identified that China’s efforts go far beyond simply spreading disinformation and propaganda and that Beijing is directly seeking to shape the production, dissemination, and consumption of information in Taiwan. In response, the Taiwanese government passed an anti-infiltration law on December 31 in order to curb disinformation and China’s influence on Taiwan’s politics.
High stakes and potential implications . . .
China’s President Xi Jinping maintains that the current status-quo (with Taiwan’s de facto independence) is not sustainable and has repeatedly stated that his patience is wearing thin. In 2005, Beijing unveiled an anti-secession law that formalized China’s long-standing policy to use “non-peaceful means” to not only prevent Taiwan's independence but also to pressure Taipei to negotiate reunification with Beijing. More recently, in a speech to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, President Xi reiterated that China will try its best to achieve “peaceful reunification” but he did not rule out the use of force if needed.
- The Globe and Mail: The fate of Taiwan hangs in the balance
- The New York Times: Awash in disinformation before vote, Taiwan points finger at China
- South China Morning Post: Taiwan election rivals make final pitch to voter