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On the Taiwan Local Election
Views:932 Updated:2020-01-16

On 11 Jan 2020, the Taiwan local election concluded with the re-election of the current leader. Right after this result came out, the Chinese authority re-affirmed China’s position on the Taiwan issue by stating that “regardless of what happens in Taiwan, the basic facts won't change - there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China.”

Meanwhile, among a wide range of circles including the academic field and the media, there have been discussions on this issue mostly focusing on the causes of Cai’s re-election as well as on the implications of that. Some of the generally agreed views regarding the consequences of this election include, with the re-election of Cai, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would be more confident now in its attempt to seek Taiwan independence; the current Taiwan government will be likely to adopt more provocative policies and measures to counter the influence of the mainland China; the Chinese authority in response would take even tougher measures to limit Taiwan’s activities at both regional and international levels; and the Cross-straight relations could risk being worsened.

Based on the understanding to the above views, this piece would add a point that voting for Cai doesn’t mean supporting for Taiwan independence, particularly in Taiwan’s case.

Taiwan locals didn’t appear to be having another better choice for the time being. It is believed that a large number of Taiwan people who are supportive of Taiwan-mainland unification still voted for Cai this time, mainly because the internal disunity of the Nationalist Party (KMT) - the main competitor of the DPP- offered a better chance for the DPP to win. The internal division of the KMT weakened the party’s strength and position in running a good campaign, in bringing people together and in leading Taiwan forward. At least currently, the DPP appears to be more active in managing people’s mood to make people believe that the DPP is more capable in leading. People would usually vote for a stronger, more capable and more united party rather than for a weaker and divided party.

Under the current circumstance, what could be the next for relevant sides – the KMT, the DPP, and the mainland then?

There is a necessity for the KMT to promote reform, including re-defining the party’s position and direction, and allowing younger people within the party to get on the stage to inject more energy, strength and ideas into the party, in order to restore the confidence of the party.

For the DPP and for any party actually, misperceptions of public opinions would be detrimental to the party and to Taiwan. Wining an election is just of a temporary matter. Historical facts should be respected. Some wishful thinking should be avoided.

It is assumed that some people in Taiwan might have been influenced by the UK’s exit from the European Union. For those having such wishful thinking, they should be reminded that Taiwan’s case is different from that of any other countries, given that Taiwan is not a country, as well as given the complicated history of the Taiwan issue and the relationship between the mainland and Taiwan.

In the UK’s case, the UK is an independent country. Leaving the European Union might mean a brighter future for it. By taking into account the UK’s regional and international influence, leaving the EU also relates to a matter of contributing to the restructuring of the regional and international systems. In contrast, Taiwan is not recognized by countries regionally and internationally. Seeking Taiwan independence has no future for Taiwan and for the Taiwan people.

There could be other types of wishful thinking among a certain group of people in Taiwan as well – Some would expect to expand Taiwan’s acting space and lift Taiwan’s regional and international status by aligning with and relying on the United States; Some would believe that once a conflict takes place between the mainland and Taiwan, the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s assistance to counter the mainland, because from the traditional geopolitical perspective, Taiwan has a strategic significance to the U.S., under such a condition, the U.S. will not give up Taiwan; and Some in Taiwan may tend to seek a leverage between the U.S. and the mainland, and to take advantage from the growing competition between the two great powers.

All those wishful perceptions would be harmful to Taiwan and to the people there. This piece would respond to these thinking by listing a series of facts and analysis.

The U.S. was ever a strong supporter to the KMT- led China in history. After the KMT lost control in the Chinese civil war, the U.S. stopped aiding to the KMT; then the commander of the KMT fled to Taiwan. Historical facts told that the cost of the U.S. support to the KMT was huge, and it ended with the failure of the KMT and of the U.S. policy.

The U.S. and Taiwan was in a diplomatic relationship for more than 20 years before the then U.S. president and his team in late 1960s and early 1970s made a series of grand moves to reach to the then Chinese authority; later they successfully led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two powers. Meanwhile, Taiwan-represented China in 1971 was kicked out of the United Nations membership.

Obviously, the U.S. was aware that it wasn’t in its interest to ignore the mainland while to continue to remain in a diplomatic ties with Taiwan, partly due to the U.S. necessity in implementing its cold war policy, and more crucially to the fact that the U.S. saw the greater potential of cooperating with the mainland from a wide range of aspects including in economic and strategic terms, than of closing to Taiwan.

It is believed that all countries including the U.S. would put the interests of its nation and of its people in the first place. The U.S. wouldn’t sacrifice the interests of its nation and of its people to aid Taiwan. It didn’t do that in the past, and neither would it assumingly do it in the new century. The cooperation, engagement and competition between the U.S. and China have never ceased to exist since decades ago. These will be likely to remain in the coming years, though the level of competition and cooperation might be diverse occasion by occasion and in different stages. Nevertheless, the benefits out of cooperation and engagement between the two over the past years have never stopped growing; and the general trend that the two would make efforts to move this relationship forward and keep their competition on a controllable level will not likely alter in the foreseeable future.

Therefore, for those in Taiwan having the above wishful thinking, it is suggestive for them to re-think carefully of the final consequences. Taiwan is not the KMT’s Taiwan, neither is it the DPP’s or any party’s Taiwan. It is the whole China’s Taiwan. Taiwan’s future relies on the peace and prosperity of the One-China.

As for other parties, it is seen in Taiwan the rising of a new party whose proposition appears to be clearer. There could be an opportunity for the new party to play a role in the future. For all individuals, organizations, groups, and parties which are committed to promoting unification and leading Taiwan toward a better future should be encouraged and supported.

Over the past decades, Taiwan has benefitted from the mainland dramatically more in economic and business terms, In the coming years, it is advisable for the two sides to deepen cooperation on other variety of issues such as people to people exchanges, joint cultural promotion activities, regular communications and discussions among think tanks, academic institutes, enterprises, and the media as well as more exchanges in education etc. The Chinese authority may take into account whether there is a need to set up a series of mechanisms to regularly facilitate the exchanges and cooperation on those areas of issues. These types of activities are expected to lead to a better understanding between the mainland and Taiwan.

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