Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Taiwan Elects First Female President, Promises to Keep Taiwan Independent

On the 16th of January, Taiwan (Republic of China) held its 2016 General Elections, electing its first female president into office, Tsai Ing-Wen. The Kuomintang (Nationalist) party, the once-leading party of Taiwan, lost the seat to the presidency and a majority in the Legislative Branch that it held for nearly 70 years. Most importantly, the woman elected was of the Democratic Progressive Party, which unlike the previously dominating Kuomintang party, “vowed to preserve the status quo in relations with China, adding Beijing must respect Taiwan's democracy and both sides must ensure there are no provocations.” (Tsai)
Before the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1950, The Republic of China was the legitamite government of the entirety of China. However, Mao’s Revolution and the ensuing Civil War pushed the ROC Nationalist government out of the mainland, forcing the government and military to evacuate to Taiwan.
The United States, panicked by Mao’s Communist takeover, provided aid and support to Taiwan, recognizing it as the legitimate government of China, and let it have the seat for China in the United Nations. In 1971, The ROC lost its seat in the UN to the People’s Republic of China, Mao’s government. With the loss of support and recognition by the international community, it seemed like Democratic China would soon cease to exist, as even the Kuomintang party began promoting reunification with China. Over the past decades, trade between Taiwan and China have been increasing.

Now, with the Democratic Progressive Party in power, tensions between Taiwan and China may escalate to the point were China will once again threaten to invade the island nation and destroy that government in exile. If the U.S. and/or the UN supports the Taiwan ROC and its decision to be independent, tensions with China could rise to pre-Nixon times. If the U.S. and/or the UN were to support Chinese reunification, the would risk massive lashback from the public.
What do you think of this? What do you believe will ROC/PRC/U.S./UN tensions be in the coming years? Decades? Should the U.S. and UN support the independence of Taiwan? How will international trade be affected? Could we someday see an invasion of the island nation?



Elliot Quan said...

Interesting - apparently this election had the lowest voter turnout in 20 years (66%, according to the South China Morning Post. Perhaps it seems that the younger generation is beginning to participate in politics, given that this is only the second time the KMT has been defeated by the hands of the Democratic Party in the last 50 or so years.

Since US-Taiwan relations represent a more progressive position than would siding with China, I think that Taiwan will continue to be supported by the US. In December, the US conducted a $1.8 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which Beijing obviously frowned upon; they apparently responded with sanctions toward the US companies that manufactured the arms in question (Wash Post), yet there appears to have been at least some bipartisan support of the political move.

I do not think China will make any aggressive moves at the moment - but I'd like to wait for President Xi Jinping's response to Tsai's victory. Last year, he threatened military force, so we'll see how that goes.

Kristen Tamsil said...

I believe that Taiwan should be an independent nation and not be unified with China. New generations of leaders should recognize that there can be two nations, properly recognized by the rest of the world, including the UN, as separate sovereign nations. Normal, friendly, neighborly relations should be developed that promote prosperity instead of tension in the region. China will saber-rattle for sure. She wants to assert dominance in the region but a take over of the Island Nation? China will not risk its economic development by going to war with the US and perhaps other nations who feel threatened by her ambitions. China has indeed doubled its defense budget to almost $145B (https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2015-03-19/chinas-double-digit-defense-growth). But I believe China's effort is simply to be a force to be reckoned with in the Asia Pacific region, and counter balance the dominance of the US (the US spent over $600B in 2015). Will things change in a decade or two? I believe so. Just like China is economically becoming more prosperous, she will want to become politically more influential in her own backyard. The US will also have no choice but to be satisfied with a shared stage in the Asia Pacific. Eventually, there will be an equilibrium of power and influence where a win-win is achieved for all, including smaller nations. This includes the Island Nation of Taiwan.