The Student News Site of Taipei American School




2020 marks a turning point for more reasons than one


Earning 51.7% of the vote, Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate, has won her bid for her second presidential term. Even though the results of the presidential elections are where the world was drawn to, Taiwan’s 2020 elections represented a major shift for different reasons. The DPP also retained a majority in Taiwan’s legislature, regaining many of the seats they had lost to the Kuomintang. 
In this sea of green, it’s worth considering how Taiwan’s cross-strait neighbor, China, will view this shift. Tsai’s victory may strongly pressure China to act rashly. After all, when Tsai first won the presidency, cross-strait tensions deteriorated significantly. When Tsai’s predecessor, the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou was president, cross-strait ties were extremely high. Because KMT candidates have historically taken a more favorable stance towards China, Ma’s presidency included trade and investments in people-to-people relations with the leaders frequently visiting each other. When Tsai won in 2016, however, China’s rhetoric towards Taiwan deteriorated as Tsai’s policies were less favorable towards China. 
In fact, after Tsai first won the election there have been reports of Chinese election meddling to hurt the DPP’s political expansion. It even got to the point where Facebook opened a ‘war room’ dedicated to combating Chinese disinformation before the 2020 election. 
It’s likely that with Tsai winning her second term, China will increasingly fear that their “one China, two systems” plan for gradual reunification with Taiwan is becoming a distant hope. 
Perhaps, Xi Jin-ping, the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, will feel more pressure to act erratically or more militarily against Taiwan. This is magnified by the fact that Xi is facing domestic and political pressure from within the Chinese Communist Party and is looking for a political win to bolster his legitimacy. Recently, George Yin, a Dickey Fellow at Dartmouth College, published an article in the Brookings Institute about Xi’s waning power. 
Many senior members of the Chinese Communist Party have criticized Xi’s policies for being too confrontational with the United States, engaging in the trade war, and removing term limits. When coupled with the threat that Hong Kong poses to Xi’s international image, Yin says Xi is becoming desperate for a diversion. Although the CCP is less willing to unite behind Xi on other issues, Yin suggests that if Taiwan were to continue to take an antagonistic stance to China, Xi would be able to bolster his support very quickly by attacking the island. 
Some of the supporters on the ground voiced similar concerns. “I support a lot of Tsai’s  policies but I think it’s likely that China will take a more hardline stance towards Taiwan because they don’t think reunification is a possibility seeing as such an anti-reunification candidate like Tsai just won.” said Ting Xu-Ying, a DPP supporter. 
All of these political factors plus the fact that Tsai just won her second term might be the confluence of factors necessary to create a true cross-strait crisis. Either way, whether it’s for Tsai’s historic win or the start of a spiraling conflict with China, the 2020 Taiwanese election will be a massive turning point for Taiwan. 

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