Taiwan delivered a resounding message to China over the weekend by re-electing President Tsai Ing-wen who’s long been an emphatic campaigner for Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Ing-wen reclaimed 57 percent of the popular vote; a result conveying the wariness of Taiwanese nationals against China’s mounting efforts to bring the country under its control. Such resistance has heightened over the past 12 months against the backdrop of hostility and public protests in Hong Kong against Beijing.
China’s leader Xi Jinping has previously warned Taiwan that unification of the two states was inevitable. His government harnessed opportunities to woo Taiwanese nationals with mainland employment without proper consultation with Tsai Ing-wen’s administration; also threatening the use of force if Taiwan failed to comply.
Ing-wen was not expected to win, but her victory sends a strong message to China and the rest of the world; a sentiment captured in her victory speech.
“With each presidential election, Taiwan is showing the world how much we cherish our democratic way of life,” she said during a press conference in Taipei. “We must work to keep our country safe and defend our sovereignty.”
Compulsory voting does not exist in Taiwan, but the election drew a significant electorate turn-out.
It is uncertain how China will respond to Ing-wen’s re-election. Some speculate that Beijing will only redouble its efforts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically, while the threat of war remains a possibility.
Yesterday, China criticised global sentiment which overwhelmingly endorsed Ing-wen’s re-election. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang urged the international community to promote the “One-China principle”.
“We hope and believe that … [they will] understand and support the just cause of Chinese people to oppose the secessionist activities for ‘Taiwan independence’ and realise national reunification,” he said.
Several foreign leaders have congratulated Ing-wen on the victory, claiming the result is a positive sign of democracy.