Yasuyoshi Chiba Agence France-Presse At the end of a campaign marked by strong diplomatic and military pressure from China, the outgoing Taiwanese vice-president, Lai Ching-te, won the one-round presidential election on Saturday with 40.1% of the vote.
Katell Abiven – Agence France-Presse and Amber Wang – Agence France-Presse to Taipei
January 14, 2024
Taiwan on Sunday called on China to “respect the results of the presidential election” won the day before by Lai Ching-te, who affirms that the island is de facto independent and promises to defend it against threats of reunification.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls on Beijing authorities to respect the results of the election, face reality and desist from repressing Taiwan,” according to a statement from the Taiwanese ministry.
Despite the vote, “Taiwan is part of China,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said earlier on the social network X (formerly Twitter).
As of Saturday evening, the communist country, which considers Taiwan as one of its provinces to be reunified by force if necessary, assured that this vote “would not hinder the inevitable trend of reunification with China”. He promised to “firmly oppose separatist activities aimed at Taiwan’s independence as well as foreign interference.”
- Taiwan president-elect vows to protect island from 'threats' from China
- In Taiwan, a presidential election and concerns
- Analysis | The future of Taiwan placed in the uncertainty of a crucial election
Claiming to have received congratulations from “more than 50 countries including 12 diplomatic allies”, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the “absurd and erroneous comments” of the Chinese authorities.
In Washington, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, congratulated Lai Ching-te as well as the Taiwanese for their “solid democratic system”.
This message immediately caused Beijing to react, believing that it “sends a profoundly erroneous signal to separatist forces in favor of “Taiwan independence””.
But “we do not support independence”, tempered American President Joe Biden.
American delegation expected
As of Sunday, an informal American delegation composed of former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, former Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and the president of the American Institute in Taiwan, Laura Rosenberger, is expected to Taiwan.
She is scheduled to meet Monday with “a series of leading political figures and convey the American people's congratulations to Taiwan on the successful election,” according to the Institute's statement.
The status of Taiwan is one of the most explosive topics in the rivalry between China and the United States.
The United States does not recognize Taiwan as a state and considers the People's Republic of China to be the sole legitimate government, but nevertheless provides the island with significant military aid.
At the end of a campaign marked by strong diplomatic and military pressure from China, outgoing Taiwanese Vice President Lai Ching-te, 64, won the one-round presidential election on Saturday with 40.1% of the vote. He will take office on May 20, alongside his vice president, Hsiao Bi-khim, Taipei's former representative in Washington.
Coming from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) like the outgoing president, Tsai Ing-wen – who could not run again after two terms – Lai Ching-te promised to “protect Taiwan from continuous threats and intimidation of China”.
The one who, in the past, had defined himself as “a pragmatic architect of Taiwan's independence”, has since softened his speech: now, like Tsai Ing-wen, he adopts a more nuanced, asserting that an independence process is not necessary because the island is de facto independent, with its own government and elections.
But he remains perceived by Beijing as a promoter of “separatist activities linked to independence” and “a serious danger” for relations between China and Taiwan.
China therefore called on the Taiwanese to make “the right choice”, but they preferred Lai Ching-te to his main opponent Hou Yu-ih, of the Kuomintang, who advocated rapprochement with Beijing .
“We say to the international community that between democracy and authoritarianism, we will be on the side of democracy”, launched the president-elect to his supporters, promising however to “continue exchanges and cooperation with China”, the island's first trading partner.
“Raise the pressure”
The territory of 23 million inhabitants located 180 kilometers from the Chinese coast is hailed as a model of democracy in Asia.
“The ruling party’s unprecedented third consecutive presidential victory will disappoint China,” commented Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, but without leading to “short-term change.” end of Beijing's reunification strategy”.
The analyst also considers it “unlikely […] that Chinese President Xi Jinping will resume official contacts with the Taiwanese government, which were suspended eight years ago”, after the election of Tsai Ing-Wen.
For Alexander Huang, a military expert at Tamkang University in Taipei, a military reaction from China to the vote “will probably not be immediate.”
But “Beijing will increase pressure on Taiwan in other ways: after all, Lai Ching-te is not like Tsai Ing-wen,” he says, estimating that the elected president is perceived by Beijing as more radical than its predecessor.
A conflict in this strait would be disastrous for the global economy: the island supplies 70% of the planet's semiconductors and more than 50% of the containers transported in the world pass through it.< /p>