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May 29, 2024

China Ramps Up Pressure on Taiwan Ahead of Key Election

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Jan 4, 2024

Chinese President Xi Jinping rang in the new year with fresh threats aimed at Taiwan, vowing that unification between China and the self-ruled island is “inevitable.” With Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections just days away, tensions are reaching new heights across the Taiwan Strait.

Xi Reasserts Unification Goal

In his New Year’s address, Xi proclaimed that “the wheels of history are rolling on toward China’s reunification” with Taiwan. He stated that “we reserve the option to take all necessary measures” to achieve this goal [1]. This language echoes Xi’s remarks at October’s Chinese Communist Party congress, where he refused to renounce the use of force to subsume Taiwan under Beijing’s control.

While a military takeover is not imminent, Xi’s threats aim to intimidate Taiwanese voters in advance of Saturday’s vote. Chinese military planes breached Taiwan’s air defense zone over 60 times in December, signaling Beijing’s displeasure [2]. A Chinese official called one candidate, President Tsai Ing-wen, a “troublemaker” bent on Taiwan’s independence [3].

October 2022 Xi refuses to renounce force at Chinese Communist Party congress
December 2022 60+ Chinese military jet incursions into Taiwan’s air space
January 1, 2023 Xi threatens Taiwan in New Year’s speech
January 11, 2023 Taiwan’s presidential/legislative elections

Taiwan’s Leader Fires Back

Tsai, who is seeking reelection, delivered her own New Year’s address affirming Taiwan’s sovereignty and desire to maintain the status quo. “The future of Taiwan rests in the hands of Taiwan’s people,” she declared [4].

A longtime critic of Beijing, Tsai warned China against interfering in the upcoming vote. Taiwan’s government plans to release a report next week detailing how China tries to sway Taiwanese politics through cyber attacks and spreading misinformation [5].

President Tsai Ing-wen – Seeking reelection on Jan. 11
– Asserts Taiwan’s right to self-determination
– Condemns Chinese election interference

Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party has irritated Beijing by refusing to accept that Taiwan is part of “one China.” Her reelection would deal a blow to Xi’s hopes for progress on unification [6].

China Has Few Taiwan Options

China’s bellicose words partly reflect frustration over the difficulties it faces in pulling Taiwan under its authority. “China has no good options currently available,” notes Richard Bush of the Brookings Institution [7].

A full-scale invasion would risk failure, enormous casualties, and destruction of Taiwan’s economy. Instead, Beijing wages gray zone warfare – cyber attacks, misinformation campaigns and military intimidation [8] [9]. By eroding confidence in Taiwan’s leadership, China hopes to gain political leverage.

Taiwan enjoys strong bipartisan support in Washington, however, constraining China’s options. Congress has pushed for closer military ties as China’s pressure on Taiwan mounts [10].

Election Outcome Could Shape Cross-Strait Ties

If Tsai and her party retain control in Taiwan, Sino-Taiwanese tensions are likely to grow [11]. China will probably intensify its campaign to isolate Taiwan diplomatically. Chinese military activity around Taiwan may also increase.

A win by the opposition Kuomintang party, which favors closer mainland ties, could reset the relationship. But even the KMT now rejects “one country, two systems” [12] and opposes unification under current conditions [13].

Taiwan’s fate will be shaped predominantly by decisions made in Taipei rather than speeches from Beijing. Still, Xi’s brinkmanship produces heightened risks that a crisis in the Taiwan Strait could quickly spiral out of control.

References

[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2024/1/1/taiwans-tsai-ing-wen-says-islands-future-must-be-decided-by-its-people

[2] https://www.voanews.com/a/china-ramps-up-intimidation-campaign-ahead-of-taiwan-election/7424691.html

[3] https://news.yahoo.com/china-calls-taiwan-president-frontrunner-012538807.html

[4] https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2024/1/1/taiwans-tsai-ing-wen-says-islands-future-must-be-decided-by-its-people

[5] https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taiwan-will-publish-analysis-chinas-alleged-election-interference-post-vote-2024-01-04/

[6] https://foreignpolicy.com/2024/01/02/taiwan-elections-president-dpp-kmt-china/

[7] https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/china%E2%80%99s-taiwan-nightmare-has-come-true-208259

[8] https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/why-beijings-latest-pre-election-attempt-to-coerce-taiwanese-voters-could-backfire/

[9] https://www.axios.com/2024/01/01/xi-china-taiwan-unification-speech

[10] https://www.politico.eu/article/taiwan-china-reunification-inevitable-xi-jinping-election-2024/

[11] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3246914/taiwan-election-president-tsai-ing-wen-weighs-after-dpps-william-lai-faces-new-independence-row

[12] https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3247024/beijing-urges-taiwanese-stand-right-side-history-ahead-presidential-election

[13] https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Taiwan-tensions/Taiwan-surely-will-be-unified-with-China-Xi-says

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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