Taiwan’s President Re-elected in Landslide Election

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Taiwan’s President Re-elected in Landslide Election

Shirley Huang, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Jan. 11, the incumbent president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, won the 2020 Taiwanese presidential election with a record 8.17 million votes. Winning 57.1% of the popular vote, Tsai easily secured a second term in office. Despite China’s efforts to take control of the island’s democratic government, Tsai’s victory, as she explained in a post-election press conference, communicates the people’s wish for independence. 

Tsai spoke for all citizens of Taiwan when she declared, “Democratic Taiwan and our democratically elected government will not concede to threats and intimidation. The results of this election have made that answer crystal clear.”

Since 1949, when the retreating Kuomintang party first set up a government-in-exile on the island of Taiwan, China has sought reunification. To this day, China identifies Taiwan as a rogue Chinese province. Rather than come to peace with the people of Taiwan, China has tried to isolate Taiwan through sabotaging its ties with diplomatic allies. During Tsai’s first term, 7 allies defected from Taipei to Beijing, bringing Taiwan’s formal ally count to 15.

Additionally, China has proclaimed its willingness to use military force against Taiwan in order to achieve reunification. 

Tsai’s opponent, the populist mayor Han Kuo-yu, openly criticized Tsai’s policy toward China, which he claimed may provoke military action. Throughout his campaign, Han promised to “make Taiwan safe” through establishing closer economic ties with China. 

Although Han had entered the race with strong support from Taiwan’s rural communities, his reputation was badly hurt when he failed to confront China over the Hong Kong protests. 

Tsai, by contrast, took an aggressive stance in support of Hong Kong protesters, stating, “Young people in Hong Kong have used their lives and shed their blood and tears to show us that ‘one country, two systems’ is not feasible.” 

Through audacious statements such as this one, Tsai gained a mass following of support from young, pro-independence citizens. 

“Demographics played in Tsai’s favor. Young people identify with Taiwan and the democratic values that Tsai’s platform promised to represent and protect to a greater degree than her competitor,” said Jonathan Sullivan, a China studies specialist at the University of Nottingham. He warns “these same demographics ought to worry Beijing, because they only point in one direction, and it’s not unification.”

As protests continued in Hong Kong, a shadow was cast over Taiwan’s own future. This, in turn, prompted the people of Taiwan to fight to protect their rights as well as their home. Thousands of Taiwanese from around the globe flew back to cast their ballot in the 2020 election. 

Among those who flew in were Hong Kong residents, eager to witness the results of Taiwan’s elections. As an expression of gratitude toward Taiwan’s continuous support, the people of Hong Kong marched in political rallies throughout the week, advocating for direct democracy.

The night before the election votes, Tsai announced, “Tomorrow, it is the turn of young people of Taiwan to show Hong Kong that the values of democracy and freedom overcomes all difficulties.”

 

Photo courtesy of ABC.NET.AU