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Editorial: Anti-China sentiment in Taiwan tail winds for Tsai’s reelection bid

  • December 16, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:25 p.m.
  • English Press
  • ,

China’s pressure on Hong Kong has aroused anti-China sentiment in Taiwan, providing favorable winds for the administration of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who has been critical of China. It is safe to say that China’s methods, which do not respect the will of the people, has created a situation unfavorable for itself.

 

It has been announced that Taiwan’s presidential election will be held to choose the island’s next top leader, with votes to be cast and counted on Jan. 11. Tsai, the incumbent who belongs to the Democratic Progressive Party, is seeking reelection. In popular support ratings, she is greatly leading Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu of the largest opposition Kuomintang party.

 

In the presidential election four years ago, Tsai set aside one of her party’s principles of seeking Taiwan’s independence. Instead, she adhered to a moderate assertion that insisted on neither independence nor unification, and she called for maintaining the status quo. In the ongoing election campaign, however, she has become more critical of China, saying Taiwan will disappear if it succumbs to pressure from Beijing.

 

Fierce anti-China demonstrations are continuing in Hong Kong, where China applies the “one country, two systems” formula. In Taiwan, which China is seeking to unify under the same formula, opposition to Beijing has also become stronger, mainly among young people.

 

Tsai seems to think that it has become even easier for her hard-line stance on China to be accepted by voters.

 

Until around the summer, Han was close to Tsai in popularity ratings, but he has lost momentum as he is regarded as pro-China. He has emphasized he will improve relations with Beijing, thereby drawing more tourists from mainland China to Taiwan and increasing agricultural exports to China. However, his popular support has not widened.

 

Another unfavorable development for Han is that there is a growing move among some Taiwan corporations operating in China to return to Taiwan, with a view to avoiding the impact of U.S. sanctions imposed on China.

 

Although it is only natural that the election campaign is drawing attention to Taiwan’s relationship with China, in-depth debates should be promoted regarding how the Tsai administration’s first term should be assessed, as well as concrete policies to be pursued.

 

At a time when Taiwan-China dialogue remains suspended, how should Taiwan’s economy, heavily dependent on China, be developed? Tsai also faces questions about the feasibility of her policy measure aimed at promoting a stable supply of electricity by shifting from nuclear power generation to renewable energy.

 

China should not meddle in the election campaign. In the 1996 presidential election, China conducted a drill involving missiles in waters off Taiwan, arousing increased tensions between the two sides. Last month, China’s first domestically produced aircraft carrier traversed the Taiwan Strait. Some have said that China is also attempting to influence Taiwan’s public opinion through the internet.

 

Beijing should realize that if it increases coercive pressure on Taiwan, the island’s public sentiment will be further alienated from China.

 

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has clearly said it supports the Tsai government. This summer, it decided to sell F-16 fighters to Taiwan. The U.S.-China antagonism will inevitably become more intense over Taiwan as well.

 

Taiwan’s stability and development is extremely important for Japan and neighboring countries. Japan needs to closely look at how the results of the election and policies to be adopted by Taiwan’s next administration will affect the East Asian situation.

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