Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, backed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was re-elected to a second term by winning a record number of votes. During the campaign, Tsai encouraged the public to overcome challenges by pursuing the values of democracy and freedom, with large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong in mind, garnering wider support from voters.
In other words, negative public reaction to China’s tough stance toward Taiwan and Hong Kong helped boost voters’ support for Tsai.
China should look squarely at Taiwanese public opinion and review its policy toward Taipei and promote dialogue with the island.
Tsai was forced to step down as leader of the DPP after the party suffered a crushing defeat in 2018 local elections, but succeeded in rapidly regaining support from the public over more than a year period.
This is largely because Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the country will consider a “one country, two systems framework” for Taiwan.
Large-scale demonstrations in Hong Kong have demonstrated that the one country, two systems framework in Hong Kong is failing, proving that Tsai’s assertions that dictatorship and democracy cannot coexist is correct.
Public interest in the election increased and the voter turnout in the race was nearly 9 percentage points more than in the previous poll. Tsai garnered over 1 million more votes than in the previous election. It can be said that many voters who do not support any established political party cast their ballots for Tsai.
Beijing has refused to hold dialogue with the Tsai administration after it refused to accept the idea that there is only one China and has intensified diplomatic, military and economic pressure on Taiwan.
The number of countries in the world that have diplomatic ties with Taiwan has decreased to 15, and the number of Chinese tourists visiting the island has plummeted. China has adopted a tough stance toward Taiwan in a bid to help the Nationalist Party, which attaches importance to the region’s exchange with China, return to power, but such efforts have turned out to be counterproductive.
In a legislative election held at the same time, the DPP won a majority, allowing Tsai to secure a solid power base in her second term as president. However, Tsai is obviously aware of the importance of Taiwan’s relations with China. The region cannot maintain its security and prosperity simply by confronting China.
The question is how China will respond to the election outcome. If Beijing were to only increase its pressure on Taiwan, it would heighten tensions in the Strait of Taiwan and intensify its confrontation with Washington, which is increasingly supporting the Tsai administration by deciding to sell fighter planes to the island.
China should take it seriously that young people in Taiwan and Hong Kong are worried about their futures and are keenly interested in the prospects of freedom and democracy in their respective regions. Beijing cannot win trust from these people unless it shows a willingness to lend its ear to opposing opinions.
Stability in the Strait of Taiwan is a vital issue for Japan. Thus Tokyo should help promote dialogue between China and Taiwan.