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Taiwan at a Crossroads: Presidential Election Looms Amid Escalating Tensions with China

China

As Taiwan gears up for its pivotal election on January 13, it marks the inaugural national election among more than 40 to be held worldwide in 2024. Beyond determining the presidency and legislature for the island’s 23.5 million inhabitants—comparable in size to Belgium—the implications of this election ripple across the China global stage. 

Taiwanese voters grapple China with various issues, from the cost of living and housing to labour rights, energy policies, education, and elderly care. With an ageing population and a significant wealth gap encompassing low minimum wages, domestic campaign discourse oscillates between cross-party disputes, accusations of misconduct, corruption, and scandals ranging from alleged plagiarised theses to charges of secret dual nationalities.

However, looming across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing’s gaze is fixed on asserting control. The ruling Communist Party (CCP) categorises Taiwan as a Chinese province and asserts its intention to eventually “reunify” it. While Beijing has not renounced using force for this purpose, its current capability remains a subject of speculation. The outcome of Taiwan’s election resonates far beyond its borders, encapsulating the delicate balance of power and regional stability in the face of China’s assertive geopolitical ambitions.

China

In the aftermath of Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, the perceived threat from China bore a different complexion. The spectre of the Hong Kong protests and subsequent crackdown loomed large, influencing Tsai Ing-wen’s successful reelection campaign. Despite the enduring backdrop of the “China threat” over decades, people then tended to dismiss questions of imminent invasion, akin to the resilience displayed in the face of Taiwan’s frequent earthquakes.

However, the landscape has shifted dramatically since. Cross-strait tensions have surged, marked by heightened threats and acts of harassment from Beijing, including substantial military exercises simulating direct attacks on Taiwan. This evolving scenario has fueled a sense of wariness among the population, prompting increased civil defense groups and preparations for a potential invasion.

While all major presidential candidates and a growing majority of Taiwan’s populace reject the prospect of Chinese rule, nuanced differences between the parties could shape vastly different climates in the coming years. For Beijing, the paramount objective is to remove the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from office.

Jing Bo-jiun, a senior research fellow in Taiwan studies at the University of Oxford, underscores the shared acknowledgement among all three presidential candidates regarding the potential risks of Taiwan becoming a conflict zone. Their challenge lies in persuading voters that they are the most capable leaders to ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. The evolving political landscape in Taiwan becomes a crucible where leadership, peace, and the island’s future hang in the balance against the backdrop of escalating tensions with China.

China

This year’s Taiwanese election unfolds against the backdrop of global conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, amplifying risk awareness among the populace. President Tsai Ing-wen, having served the maximum two terms, paves the way for her vice-president, Lai Ching-te, to carry on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) rule. Opposition comes in the form of Hou Yu-ih from the Kuomintang (KMT) party and Ko Wen-je, the former mayor of Taipei, running as a third candidate for the Taiwan People’s Party.

The political dynamics took an unexpected turn when Ko and Hou’s plans to unite against the DPP collapsed, resulting in a three-way race. Lai, pledging to continue Tsai’s efforts, emphasizes maintaining the status quo and offering dialogue with Beijing. He frames the election as a choice between “dictatorship and democracy.” However, Beijing views the DPP as a party of separatists, and its primary goal is to see the party lose power.

A recent campaign slogan by Lai urging people to “choose the right person, take the right path” was reinterpreted by Chinese officials as choosing “separatists” to take a path to “independence.” As tensions escalate, the outcome of Taiwan’s election carries not only domestic implications but reverberates in the delicate balance of global geopolitics.

Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Wave Sweeps Military Leadership in China

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s relentless anti-corruption campaign has reached the upper echelons of the military, with several top-level commanders facing removal from their positions and investigations related to corruption. The recent dismissals of Wu Yansheng, chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Liu Shiquan, chairman of Norinco Group, and Wang Changqing, a deputy manager at the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, signal the far-reaching impact of this campaign.

Wu oversees the development of China’s spacecraft and missile programs, while Liu’s Norinco Group is a key player in manufacturing military equipment. Though state media did not provide explicit details about their removal, reports suggest an investigation related to the Chinese military’s rocket force.

Analysts view this purge as indicative of the pervasive corruption within China’s defense industry, raising concerns about its potential impact on the combat capabilities of the Chinese military. The anti-corruption campaign, while ostensibly targeting corruption, is also seen by some experts as a means for Xi to eliminate political opponents and perceived threats to his leadership. As these developments unfold, they underscore the intricate intersections between political maneuvering, military strength, and internal governance within China.

source Link https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/dec/30/taiwan-election-new-president-growing-threat-china

News Shot 24
Author: News Shot 24

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