All news

China issues warning about Taiwan election as 'choice between peace and war,' expert says

Gregory Coutaz stressed that, in addition to political statements, China also uses trade and economic sanctions to influence public opinion in Taiwan

HONG KONG, January 12. /TASS/. The Chinese authorities' recent actions and statements have effectively warned the residents of Taiwan that this weekend's presidential election on the island represents "a choice between peace and war," Gregory Coutaz, an assistant professor at the Department of Diplomacy and International Relations at Taiwan's Tamkang University, told TASS.

According to the expert, Beijing is ready to resume dialogue with Taiwan if the ruling party changes and Kuomintang candidate Hou Yu-ih wins the election. "There is no denying that Hou Yu-ih will make the greatest effort and be the most successful in promoting political dialogue with Beijing. If elected, Hou Yu-ih will follow the path of the last Kuomintang government led by President Ma Ying-jeou (who headed Taiwan's local administration in 2008-2016 - TASS). Although he distanced himself from Ma Ying-jeou's recent remarks on the problems of cross-strait relations, Hou Yu-ih clearly stated that he would support the 1992 Consensus," Coutaz pointed out.

"During his campaign, Hou Yu-ih has said that this election is a choice between peace and war. In the Kuomintang's point of view, [incumbent] President Tsai Ing-wen and the [ruling] Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are responsible for the friction between China and Taiwan," he said. "Hou Yu-ih accused DPP candidate [incumbent Vice President] Lai Ching-te of being a 'separatist' who is trying to provoke an attack by China on Taiwan. It is interesting to note that Beijing is framing this election with the same logic, warning voters in Taiwan to 'make the right choice between peace and war, prosperity and decline,'" Coutaz pointed out.

He stressed that, in addition to political statements, China also uses trade and economic sanctions to influence public opinion in Taiwan. "In recent years, we have seen China ban the import of hundreds of products from Taiwan, from tropical fruits to fish. It recently ended preferential tariffs on some Taiwanese exports, including some petrochemical products under the 2015 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement," the academic said.

"This is not the first time Beijing has resorted to economic intimidation. In 2022, it banned the import of 2,000 Taiwanese goods as a protest against the visit by [then-]US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. China's goal is to use trade issues as leverage to get voters to distance themselves from the incumbent DPP government," the expert pointed out. "Whether new restrictions will be imposed or not depends on the election of the new president. On the one hand, if Hou Yu-ih is elected, we can expect the restrictions to be lifted. On the other hand, if Lai Ching-te is elected, we can definitely expect a series of new restrictions," he added.

"The 1992 Consensus is an agreement reached at a historic semi-official meeting in Hong Kong between representatives of the Communist Party of China and the then ruling Kuomintang Party on Taiwan. It implies the recognition of the principle of Chinese unity, that is that there is only one Chinese state in the world. However, each side has the right to interpret it in its own way. For Beijing, it is the People's Republic of China, established on October 1, 1949 as a result of the Chinese Civil War, and for Taipei, it is the Republic of China, which existed on the mainland before 1949.

Elections in Taiwan

Elections for Taiwan's president and members of the Legislative Yuan (the island's highest legislative body) will be held on January 13. Since 2016, the post of Taiwan's leader has been held by Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Her second and final term expires in 2024.

The favorite in the race is Taiwan's incumbent Vice President Lai Ching-te, also representing the currently ruling DPP, who is leading in opinion polls. The two opposition candidates are Ko Wen-je, chairman of the centrist Taiwanese People's Party, and Hou Yu-ih, a politician from the pro-alignment Kuomintang, which favors rapprochement with mainland China.

Taiwan has been governed by its own administration since 1949, when the remnants of the Kuomintang forces led by Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) fled there after their defeat in the Chinese Civil War. Since then, Taiwan has retained the flag and some other attributes of the former Republic of China that existed on the mainland before the Communists took power. Official Beijing considers Taiwan a province of the People’s Republic of China.