The main candidates in Taiwan’s presidential race have advanced dramatically opposing ideas about how the island should handle tensions with China. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Ivy Kwek explains the January vote’s possible consequences for relations between Beijing and Taipei.
Taiwan’s incumbent party won unprecedented third presidential term, as China downplayed result and refrained from significantly intensifying military activity around island.
Democratic Progress Party (DPP) won presidential election. Taiwan’s incumbent DPP secured historic third term in 13 Jan presidential poll, which elected William Lai as new president having emerged with 40% of vote; DPP, however, did not secure majority in Legislative Yuan as it won only 51 seats, while opposition Kuomintang won 52, likely reflecting voters’ frustration over domestic issues. In response, China same day dismissively stated election result “does not represent mainstream opinion in Taiwan” and reiterated commitment to complete national unification. Taiwan’s senior representative in U.S. 19 Jan described status quo as “neither unification, neither independence”; Chinese embassy 23 Jan responded that “independence forces are trying to stoke confrontation and antagonism”.
China maintained military activity in Taiwan Strait. As of 29 Jan, Taiwan detected 318 Chinese military aircraft around island, of which 89 either crossed unofficial “median line” or were detected inside Taiwan’s air defence identification zone – approximately on par with activity in Dec; notably, over thirteen planes 27 Jan crossed “median line”. Taiwan spotted 132 Chinese navy vessels in surrounding waters. Taiwan reported significant increase in balloons from China crossing “median line”, tallying at least 22 in Jan compared to seven in Dec. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry 9 Jan issued nationwide emergency alert after China launched satellite which passed through Taiwan’s airspace. USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier 11 Jan deployed east of Taiwan; USS John Finn destroyer 24 Jan transited Taiwan Strait.
U.S. maintained diplomatic support; Nauru severed ties with Taiwan. Senior U.S. delegation 14 Jan met with political leaders in Taiwan, expressing concern about stability in strait. U.S. House of Representatives 12 Jan passed “Taiwan Non-Discrimination Act of 2023” and “PROTECT Taiwan Act” aimed at advocating Taiwan’s membership of International Monetary Fund and countering Beijing’s efforts to exclude island from financial institutions. Meanwhile, Pacific nation Nauru 15 Jan severed ties and aligned with China, leaving Taiwan with just twelve states recognising it; Pacific island Tuvalu late Jan signalled it would review ties with Taiwan after its own election.
Taiwanese are increasingly having a very distinctive identity different from the mainland China, and... we are seeing a Beijing that is increasingly more powerful.
This election [in Taiwan] marks a change in leadership at a moment when cross-strait tensions are high, and preserving stability has become more of a challenge.
The more Beijing employs coercion on Taiwan, the less effective these actions will [be] on striking fear in the Taiwanese public.
The Xi-Biden meeting provides an … opportunity for the two leaders to convey to each other that neither seeks to overturn the status quo or kinetic conflict.
Beijing will have to publicly condemn [Taiwan President] Tsai’s visit to the US, their ultimate response will depend on what Tsai says and who she meets with on her trip.
At the moment, we think that China has not fully developed the capability to guarantee a sure victory if it chooses to launch a military option on Taiwan.
In this video, Amanda Hsiao explains what is at stake in the dynamic between China, the U.S. and Taiwan and what steps can be taken to reduce pressure in the region.
The danger of armed confrontation over Taiwan is growing, raising the spectre of a direct conflict between China and the U.S. that would have severe global repercussions. Managing this risk will require the parties to rebuild trust by shoring up decades-old understandings.
In this video, Crisis Group’s Giustra Fellow for China Ivy Kwek talks about her work monitoring tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
A visit by Taiwan’s leader to the U.S. brought swift condemnation from China, which stepped up its military activities in the strait separating the mainland from the island. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao looks at what these events might portend.
No matter what immediate tit-for-tat reactions there are to the visit, the troubling long-term implication points to the urgent need for the Biden administration and Congress to better coordinate their handling of the Taiwan issue.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is planning a visit to Taiwan in early August. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Amanda Hsiao identifies steps the U.S. and China can take to keep frictions minimal should her trip proceed.
The number of Chinese military flights near Taiwan has soared in recent days. In this Q&A, our expert Amanda Hsiao says Beijing is not only demonstrating its objections to deepening U.S.-Taiwan ties, but also warning the broader international community against getting closer to Taiwan.
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