Taiwanese Election: Results, Importance, and Implications

Lai is the winner of the 2024 Taiwan Elections

Almost 20 million people turned up on January 13th, 2024, to decide the next president of Taiwan, an important self-governing island right outside China’s waters. The weight of this election trumps any in Taiwan’s recent history, as it will decide the future relationship between China, Taiwan, the US, and the entire Pacific world.

The Results

Lai Ching-te, or William Lai, was the winner of this crucial election. He represents the Democratic Progressive Party, where the previous president (Tsai Ing-wen) rose to power. Moreover, the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan’s Congress) also held elections and the main Democratic Progressive Party lost its majority seats. Lai did not win a majority of voters, however. The third party, the Taiwan People’s Party, received over a quarter of the votes, the largest percentage of third-party votes in recent times.

What does it mean for China?

A few days after the election, the small Pacific island of Naaru declared that it would cut all diplomatic ties with Taiwan and instead recognize the People’s Republic of China. Although not a big, substantial decision, it serves as a “punitive” measurement for Lai’s victory. When President Tsai announced closer ties with the US in 2023, China convinced Honduras to cut ties with Taiwan as well. 

Economically, Chinese-Taiwan relations are governed by the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), which went into effect in 2010. The ECFA has been falling apart due to Taiwanese bans on Chinese imports and retaliative action from China. However, China imports almost $130 billion worth of goods from Taiwan annually; most of them are high-level technological products like microchips, so whatever economic actions China seeks, they won’t be major. Even with political tensions increasing during Tsai’s administration, economic collaboration largely stayed consistent, and there’s no reason or sign of change.

Politically, tensions will continue to rise. The Democratic Progressive Party is known to support Taiwanese independence, and China broadcasted its desire for a China-friendly president. The Taiwanese people are feeling these tensions, too, and it has led to a record high amount of support for Taiwanese independence, around 50% of all voters. Moreover, the Chinese government reportedly tried to meddle with the election, which didn’t succeed, and we will have to see how China reacts to this setback, which proves their geopolitical influence isn’t as strong as they wanted. The risk of war won’t increase, however. China will not fight Taiwan because Lai was elected, as much as they would’ve preferred someone else.

What about America?

Principally, the US will not support an independent Taiwan. It prefers a balance in the status quo, as President Biden explicitly stated, on January 13th that the US will not support Taiwan’s independence. That doesn’t mean the US isn’t happy with the results. Even with Chinese meddling, Taiwan held a successful democratic election for the eighth consecutive time. Lai and his party have established strong connections with the US, and his victory means more years of trade, specifically on high-tech microchips. 

Another message that Lai’s victory sends follows the broad global trend of being united against China. Backed by the US, ex-President Tsai expanded Taiwan’s relations and trade with numerous “like-minded” democracies, like Japan and Western Europe. Expect this to continue under Lai, especially with Taiwan’s irreplaceable technological advantages. The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) creates over 90% of the world’s advanced semiconductors, meaning that our entire digital world will grind to a halt the moment Taiwan’s security is breached. This further incentivizes stronger bonds between American allies and Taiwan; staying united against China is an unofficial pact that ensures economic and national stability.

At the end of the day, it’s also highly possible that this is another regular election. Lai is known as a soft-spoken, moderate politician with ample experience. Many analysts and voters believe that he will stick to his persona. Taiwan, under his administration, will continue to pursue strong ties with America and overall independence from China, be it economic or political. This is an extension of President Tsai’s years, so think of it as a continuation of a regional trend. Unless something unforeseen happens, this delicate balance should hold. China isn’t in a rush to conquer the island. As Ryan Hass from the Brookings Institute wrote, “Xi does not need to gain control of Taiwan in the near term; he just… needs to continue to be able to call unification with Taiwan a ‘historic inevitability,’ just like every People’s Republic of China leader before him.” And America, as long as economic trade continues, will be more than glad to keep this partnership. However, Taiwan’s fate now rests in Lai’s hands, and his actions are yet to be determined—actions that could shake every aspect of our modern world.

Be the first to comment on "Taiwanese Election: Results, Importance, and Implications"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.