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The global significance of the Taiwan election outcome Empty The global significance of the Taiwan election outcome

周日 1月 14, 2024 12:41 am
Taiwan, a self-governing island with a population of 23 million, is currently the center of attention as it has elections on Saturday.

A total of 19.5 million Taiwanese citizens are currently participating in the electoral process to choose a new president and legislature.

Three individuals are competing to become the next leader of the autonomous island - William Lai Ching-te from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Hou Yu-ih from the primary opposition Kuomintang (KMT), and Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People's Party (TPP).

The individual who is elected as president will have a significant impact on the nature of the relationship between Beijing and Washington. Taiwan serves as a crucial point of contention in their struggle for influence in this particular region.

It will also have significant ramifications for the island's neighboring countries, as well as friends such as Japan, who are cautious of Beijing's assertive actions in the South China Sea.

The influence of China
China is a major focus in this election due to the increased aggression displayed by the People's Liberation Army against the island, marked by a significant rise in incursions. Beijing has explicitly expressed its opposition towards Mr. Lai, who is seeking an unprecedented third consecutive term for his party.

The PLA declared its intention to forcefully suppress any attempts at Taiwan's independence and emphasized its constant state of heightened vigilance. The Taiwan Affairs Office of China also cautioned voters in Taiwan to select the "appropriate decision", asserting that Mr. Lai would intensify efforts to advocate for separatist actions if he were to be elected.

"[He] will persist in pursuing the malevolent course of inciting 'independence' and... move Taiwan even farther from tranquility and economic success, and increasingly closer to conflict and deterioration," stated the message, which reiterated previous cautions expressed earlier in the week.

Beijing has asserted its ownership of the island for a considerable period of time, but relations have notably deteriorated in recent years, particularly during President Tsai Ing-wen's tenure and the rule of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

China suspended formal communications with Taiwan due to the latter's steadfast defense of its sovereign status. Beijing attributed this suspension to Taiwan's rejection of the One China principle, which asserts that Taiwan is an integral part of China and will eventually be reunified with it.

The situation deteriorated in 2022 when the former US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, made a visit to Taipei. Beijing conducted extensive military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, displaying a near-blockade of the island. Subsequently, the United States declared that Xi Jinping had accelerated the schedule for reunification.

Throughout this period, Taiwan has strengthened its ties with the United States, while also successfully obtaining billions of dollars worth of modern weaponry from Washington.

Beijing may escalate military pressure in the Taiwan Strait. Additionally, it has the potential to sever internet cables or disrupt supply lines to remote Taiwanese islands.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his foreign minister Wang Yi have consistently cautioned that the Chinese military is ready to seize Taiwan by military action if deemed necessary. However, numerous experts hold the view that the likelihood of a large-scale conflict is now minimal, mostly due to the substantial economic burden it would impose on China, particularly in light of its struggling economy.

Outside of China
The potential for any escalation between China and Taiwan to escalate into a larger and more perilous conflict is significant. The United States maintains a substantial naval force in the area, and both Australia and Japan have military facilities in close proximity to the island.

Washington has not yet provided specific details regarding the nature of its support in the event of a Chinese attack. Additionally, it remains uncertain whether Japan, which houses the greatest number of US soldiers in the region, will engage in combat.

Washington anticipates that the potential for its engagement will discourage any acts of Chinese aggression. Furthermore, numerous observers assert that Beijing also aims to prevent war, as evidenced by its consistent emphasis on "peaceful reunification".

The responsibility of managing several options and alliances, including the critical US relationship that may undergo changes if Donald Trump becomes the president, will rest on the shoulders of Taiwan's future president.

The United States has stated that a victory for the Kuomintang (KMT) party may potentially enhance China's influence over Taiwan. However, experts assert that a Lai presidency also concerns Washington.

In the event of a conflict in Taiwan, the consequences would be catastrophic, both in terms of the loss of human life and the detrimental impact on the island's democratic system.

Furthermore, it would have a catastrophic impact on the worldwide economy. Approximately 50% of the global container ships traverse the Taiwan Strait annually, establishing it as a pivotal nexus for global commerce.

Taiwan is the primary producer of semiconductors, which are essential components in many everyday devices such as automobiles, refrigerators, and smartphones. Any interruption to this would immobilize the whole supply chain. Imposing sanctions on China will simply exacerbate the harm inflicted on the worldwide economy.

Various projections indicate that a total interruption of China's trade would result in a decrease of $2.6tn in the added value of global trade, equivalent to 3% of the world's gross domestic product.

Reestablishing diplomatic relations with China, which poses the greatest risk to Taiwan but also represents its largest trading partner, is a primary priority for any governing body on the island. The ballot includes significant domestic concerns such as the cost of living and employment opportunities.

Analysts anticipate a scenario of divided government, in which the executive and legislative branches will be under the leadership of distinct political parties. Although there is a chance of political deadlock, there is optimism that a DPP party with greater expertise and a less influential KMT party might find a suitable equilibrium between stimulating the economy and maintaining peaceful relations with China.

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