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Taiwan’s election and territorial tension

By Winston Chu and Andrew Duval   Feb. 14, 2024


Peter Yoon Art

Taiwan’s three major parties—the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP)—vied for a presidential position on Jan. 13 that has the potential to determine foreign policy for years to come, especially Taiwan’s relationship with China. Ultimately, DPP candidate Lai Ching-te won with 40.1% of the votes, succeeding President Tsai Ing-Wen.


Territorial claims were a major topic of discussion in this election. Located off the coast of southeastern China, Taiwan is an island with a rich and complex history. For centuries, Taiwan was fully controlled by China. In 1895, it became a Japanese colony after the Sino-Japanese War, but after Japan’s defeat in World War II, China reclaimed the island. 


Following an internal revolution opposing the Qing Dynasty, the newly-formed Kuomintang party founded the Republic of China (ROC) in 1912. The KMT would later find itself embroiled in conflict with the Communist Party of China (CPC) during the 1927-1949 Chinese Civil War. Ultimately, the Communist Party won, and the KMT fled to Taiwan. China officially became known as the People's Republic of China (PRC), and Taiwan as the Republic of China (ROC).


Now, both the PRC in China and the ROC in Taiwan claim the mainland and the island of Taiwan as their territory, though the ROC has not made attempts or shown intent to reclaim any mainland territory. Despite their ethnically Chinese background, the majority of people in Taiwan consider themselves Taiwanese, not Chinese. Many oppose reunification with the mainland and have formed their own cultural identity.


“Though China may have historical claims to some territories, they do not rightfully own them if the territories desire their own independence like Hong Kong and Taiwan do,” Senior Vienna Simon said.

Although Taiwan’s low wages and housing problems are a major concern for Taiwanese voters, their greatest focus lies on China and the choice between independence or eventual reunification. Taiwan has always been threatened by war with the mainland, but in recent years the Chinese government has become increasingly aggressive, flying aircraft past the de facto median line separating Chinese and Taiwanese territorial waters and hosting military exercises over the island. Taiwan now faces a high risk of Chinese invasion or a military blockade, as China’s President Xi Jinping ordered his country’s military to be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027. 


More recently, Xi claimed reunification with Taiwan was inevitable in a New Year’s speech. China has justified its provocative actions with its “One China” policy, which claims all historical territories of China—including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet—as its current territory. Before the election, Beijing sent warnings against voting for a candidate known as a separatist or “troublemaker,” framing the election as a “choice between war and peace.”


The three parties have varied views on relations with China. DPP candidate Lai Ching-te originally advocated for Taiwanese independence, which would mean a formal declaration of Taiwan as a sovereign state. He later softened his position, stating that Taiwan is already autonomous, negating the need for a formal declaration of independence. Lai aims to lead Taiwan towards increased self-sufficiency with help from other democratic countries like the U.S. Meanwhile, the opposing KMT claims that the DPP’s methods will lead to war, and the KMT is better positioned to manage cross-Strait tensions. They seek a closer relationship with China but do not necessarily support reunification. The TPP, a newly formed independent party, is hoping to take advantage of voter dissatisfaction between the other two parties and aims to maintain the status quo.


 “From a Taiwanese point of view, the result of the election has been beneficial because it will bolster the country’s defense by creating closer relations with America. From a Chinese point of view, the outcome is a big problem because it will pose a challenge to their goals to reunify,” Sophomore Edward Chang said.

Still, Lai Ching-te only won with 40% of the vote, compared with 33% for the KMT and 26% for the TPP, according to the Associated Press. Additionally, Taiwan’s legislature is divided after no party won a majority of seats (51 for the DPP, 52 for the KMT, and 8 for the TPP). The relatively close election win and split legislature present potential future challenges to the relationship between Taiwan and China. Disagreements in the government on how to deal with Chinese aggression could potentially weaken Taiwan’s stance in a future military conflict.


Lai Ching-te’s victory has been perceived as an act of defiance against China. After he won, China condemned countries that congratulated the president-elect, claiming that it encouraged “Taiwan independence separatist forces.” As the current vice president of Taiwan, Lai’s skills gained from holding the position will be further tested as he forges a new path for the island.


 

About the Contributors


Winston Chu

staff writer

Winston Chu is a sophomore at Leland High. He enjoys writing, debating, and sleeping.







Andrew Duval

page editor

Andrew Duval is a sophomore at Leland High School and is the Sports and Fun Page Editor for The Charger Account. He loves listening to music and playing with his yellow lab Winston.






Peter Yoon

artist

Peter Yoon is a sophomore at Leland High School and is an artist for The Charger Account. During his free time, he likes to listen to music, draw, and sleep.

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