Taiwan defies China, electing a new president Beijing labeled a separatist ‘troublemaker’

January 13, 2024 in News by RBN Staff



More turmoil is brewing in the Far East amid the latest elections in Taiwan…


Source: NBC News via AOL

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Voters in Taiwan elected Vice President Lai Ching-te as their next president on Saturday, defying warnings from Beijing not to support a candidate it has called a separatist and a “troublemaker.”

The presidential candidate for Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang, Hou Yu-ih, on Saturday conceded defeat in the election within hours of polls closing as Lai opened a wide lead of over a million votes. It is the first time in Taiwan’s history that the same political party has held three consecutive terms.

The election, which China had described as “a choice between war and peace,” could test recent efforts by Beijing and Washington to repair relations that in recent years have fallen to their lowest point in decades. The status of Taiwan, one of the strongest democracies in Asia, is among the most sensitive issues between the two superpowers, and focus will now turn to any potential show of force from Beijing in response.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has not ruled out the use of force against the island, while the U.S. is Taiwan’s most important international backer. The majority of Taiwan’s 23 million people are in favor of maintaining the status quo, neither formally declaring independence nor becoming part of China.

Lai’s victory extends the eight-year rule of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which is considered the least friendly to Beijing. Relations between Taiwan and China have deteriorated under President Tsai Ing-wen, who was first elected in 2016 and is limited to two terms.

Voters, especially younger ones, were concerned not just with China policy but with economic issues such as unemployment, housing costs and income inequality.

While the final official tally is yet to come in, Lai secured a significant lead over Hou Yu-ih of the main opposition party, the Kuomintang, with Ko Wen-je, founder of the populist Taiwan People’s Party, trailing further behind. Hou and Ko, who both favor closer ties with Beijing, had argued that the DPP’s policies toward China were too confrontational.

“Because of democracy we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the international community,” Lai told NBC News in an interview last month. “We believe in democracy and that makes us different from China.”

As Taiwanese citizens headed to the polls Saturday, Beijing officials vowed to “smash” any attempt at full independence.

During a press conference following his victory on Saturday, Lai said he will continue foreign affairs and national defense in line with predecessor Tsai Ing-wen. China cut off direct dialogue with Taiwan after Tsai was elected in 2016.

Lai said he hopes that China will “understand that only peace will benefit both sides of the Strait. In addition, global peace and stability depends on peace in the Taiwan strait. We hope that China understands the situation, because China also has a responsibility.”

Lai will take office for four years starting May 20.

Taiwan Election Polling Station (Louise Delmotte / AP)
Taiwan Election Polling Station (Louise Delmotte / AP)


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