So, on 13 January, one of the most notable events of the current stage of the “Great World Game” took place, which was the “calendar” general election in Taiwan. According to their results, the island will now be governed by a new president (since Tsai Ing-wen, who held this post for two consecutive terms, could not once again run for office) and a completely renewed parliament.
It seems appropriate to express at once the author’s assessment of this whole action, which, however, has already been outlined earlier. Its significance was rather overestimated by months-long efforts of the leading actors of the world system of mass (des)information. Since, in fact, the election results were apparently (finally and in advance) agreed upon by the two current main real participants of the global political process during their last high-level contact in November last year in San Francisco.
The actual “draw” in the “Taiwan round” that took place on 13 January fully fits into the long-term scenario of a “managed struggle (competition)” between the US and China. The presidency was retained by the “pro-American” Democratic Progressive Party, which, however, lost control of the parliament. The new president, who previously served as vice president, Lai Ching-te (aka William Lai), has already announced that he is going to introduce opposition representatives into the new government. Without this, it will now be simply impossible for the DPP to pass necessary legislation through parliament.
Meanwhile, an apparent contender for the new parliamentary speaker’s post from the leading opposition Kuomintang Party, formerly mayor of Taiwan’s second-largest city Kaohsiung, said that under his leadership, the legislature would behave quite independently. Because, he said, electing a president is not enough in forming the conditions of “democracy for the people.”
In this connection, we would like to draw attention once again to the groundlessness of popular speculations about the prospect of Taiwan declaring de jure independence and the inevitable military invasion of the island by the People’s Republic of China, followed by a US-China armed conflict. The issue of preventing such a scenario in the development of the Taiwan problem was apparently the focus of the negotiations in San Francisco.
Let us add to this that neither Tsai Ing-wen nor William Lai, rejecting the so-called “Consensus” concluded in 1992 with Beijing by the then Kuomintang leadership of Taiwan, have ever (including during the current electoral struggle) declared the need to achieve de jure independence of the island. Now it will be impossible to do so “purely technically”.
However, in its relations with the PRC (“mainland”), the DPP leadership is quite satisfied with the status quo, which includes two main points: complete autonomy in the conduct of domestic and foreign policy (subject to the above caveat) and the development of extremely favourable trade and economic relations with Beijing. In fact, the Kuomintang has always followed a similar policy, which, of course, does not correspond to the key principle of the PRC leadership regarding the Taiwan problem “One country, two systems”.
Already the first statements of the newly elected president on this topic have shown that no innovations in this respect are to be expected. Commenting on the election results, on the one hand, he emphasised the demonstration of “the Taiwanese people’s resistance to external pressures” and expressed his intention to continue to strengthen multifaceted ties “with the United States and the democratic world”. At the same time, a desire was expressed to develop “relations with China on the principles of equality and parity” and to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait.
Let us pay attention to the definition of “China” of the neighbour on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. It seems that by doing so, William Lai also emphasised the toponymic autonomy of Taiwan from the PRC. Which, in general, increasingly corresponds to the self-identification of the Taiwanese themselves as a people different from the “mainland” population. This is evidenced by the results of the latest Pew Research, which show that two-thirds of the islanders perceive themselves as “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese” (or at least “Taiwanese-Chinese”). This, by the way, is seen as Beijing’s main problem in the process of “restoring the unity of the nation” and not “pumping American weapons into the island”.
The Chinese leadership, of course, quite adequately perceives this situation, trying to avoid being like Kiev’s clowns (in fact, villeins of foreign masters), who fight for territories, not for people. However, the current Ukrainian leadership is unable to offer anything positive to the people (whether still under their control or not) except primitive (“historical”) myth-making.
In the system of relations with Taiwan in recent years, Beijing has been intensively expanding the “people-to-people” format, targeting mainly Fujian Province, located opposite the island. It is also comprehensively developing lines of communication across the Taiwan Strait. And the DPP has already felt the danger associated primarily with this course, although the public rhetoric of the same “pressure” refers primarily to various military demonstrations by the PLA.
It should be noted that, unlike the DPP, the Kuomintang and the latter’s partner, the Taiwan People’s Party, are willingly in contact with the “mainland”. It can be expected that now, after the results of the elections just held, parliaments will also be involved in bilateral activities of all kinds.
In these circumstances, it seems no less predictable that Washington will intensify its all-round activity in the Taiwan area, which will be aimed primarily at supporting the DPP’s domestic political positions. This includes the continuation of demonstrative visits to the island by representatives of all branches of the US government, during which communication will take place mainly with functionaries of this very party. It is reported that the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson “asked” the heads of the leading committees to go to the island in the near future.
Among other countries of the “democratic camp”, the Taiwanese electoral process was watched particularly closely in neighbouring Japan and the Philippines.
On behalf of the Japanese government, Foreign Minister Yōko Kamikawa congratulated William Lai on his victory, saying in particular that “Taiwan is an extremely important partner and an important friend with whom Japan shares fundamental values”. The day after the election, William Lai received in Taipei the head of the Japanese parliamentary task force, K. Furuya, during a conversation with whom he expressed his “deep desire to develop co-operation” with the country.
In this connection, the statement of the management of the world leader in the field of microchip production Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co about the intention to start construction of the second plant in Japan drew attention. Moreover, at the end of 2024 the plant already under construction in this country will be put into operation.
His Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was not slow to congratulate the newly elected Taiwanese president. In this regard, he was criticised by the official representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry. As always, the Global Times newspaper presented Beijing’s generalised assessment of the results of the elections held in Taiwan accurately and in clear images.
Finally, it should be noted that the inauguration of a new president and the formation of a new government in Taiwan will not take place until May of this year, which is not insignificant in these troubled times. In the meantime, incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen has proposed that her government continue to function in an “interim” status.
So the real change of power in Taiwan is yet to come.
Vladimir TEREKHOV, an expert on the problems of the Asia-Pacific region, especially for the online magazine «New Eastern Outlook».