Did China Triumph in Taiwan?

, Emmanuel Opati, Leave a comment

The result of the election in Taiwan in which the opposition Nationalist Party or Kuomintang (KMT) won an overwhelming majority over the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) reinforces the influence of China in Taiwan.

Although in his victory speech, the leader of KMT, Ma Ying-jeou told his supporters that “the KMT did not beat the DPP. The DPP was defeated by itself. People have cast a vote of no-confidence in the DPP government,” analysts believe this sent a signal about China as a rising Asian power.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, John Tkacik, Senior Research Fellow, said that “in general, Asians expected that the U.S will continue to insulate Taiwan from China. While the Taiwanese electorate surely made their electoral choice democratically on issues separate from the national identity issue, the rest of Asia will view Taiwan’s vote as a national identity issue.”

The KMT, which won with 81 of the 113 seats in Taiwan’s parliamentary elections, ran on a reunification agenda and seeks closer ties with China, a country that regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

However, some commentators believe this election was not a reunification referendum on Taiwan but rather a result of voter dissatisfaction with the ruling party. Tkacik noted that “if you look at polls on the Taiwan national identity issue, you do get a clear sense that Taiwanese nationhood was crystallizing in Taiwan.”

It is believed that although people voted for KMT, they are concerned about the return to authoritarianism which demonstrates the growing maturity of democracy in Taiwan.

Michael Fonte, Consultant to the Democratic Progressive Party noted that “Taiwan has been touted as a model that says Asian values do not halt the internal models of consistency.” However, there are fears that a victory for KMT, a party with close ties to communist China, might undermine Taiwan’s developing democracy. “Will Taiwan continue to be a democratic State or will it revert to a one-party-rule State? Will Taiwan remain moderate and strong on defense?,” Fonte asked.

Jacob Chang, Deputy Representative of KMT in the United States insisted that “this election again is a testimony to a smooth and peaceful election in Taiwan.”

He added that Mr. Ma Ying-jeou (leader of KMT) will uphold the five NOs, that is

• No Constitutional amendment,

• No declaration of independence

• No change of title or name of the country

• No incorporation of a two-state theory into the constitution and

• No abolishment of the National Unification Council.

It has been argued that Taiwan has developed politically over the last generation. Therefore, China may not interfere with internal matters because there has been political development in mainland China during the same period. John Tkacik argued that “China would be unlikely to react too much to this election. Their approach tends to be more personalized on Taiwan’s leader than what is on grassroots or which party is in-charge.”

John Tkacik also said that Taiwanese are finally resigning themselves to two realities; the first reality is that China’s international pressures will certainly continue if not increase and secondly, the United States will no longer continue or even able to insulate Taiwan effectively.

He also added that this is because “the U.S. has found itself deeply pre-occupied with the Middle East and it seems that the U.S. imperative in Asia has been primarily to avoid any problems with China.”

Taiwan split from China in 1949 but China has never recognized its independence. The Nationalists’ (KMT) official policy is to eventually reunify Taiwan with rival China, but not until the communist government is deposed.

Analysts will be eying the March 22nd Presidential elections with keen interest to see if KMT’s parliamentary victory will propel it into winning the presidency.

Emmanuel Opati is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.