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Here’s why Taiwan’s elections are crucial for Beijing

taipei: Local elections across Taiwan will be held on Saturday. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) battled its rivals in key polls. The elections that take place every four years, also known as “Taiwan’s midterms”, are a crucial test of support for the ruling DPP ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.

The election marks the first national vote since China’s recent military escalation in August towards the island it claims as its territory.

According to Beijing’s One China principle, Taiwan is an unbreakable part of its territory and will one day be unified with the motherland. He said the “Constitution of the Republic of China” has a substantial “one China” element as it considers both Taiwan and mainland China to be part of China.

Moreover, Taiwan’s vibrant democracy is seen by Beijing as a threat to the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It also explains why China has interfered in the island’s political process through various means, including disinformation, diplomatic repression, economic coercion and others.

Local elections focus on China-Taiwanese issues

Typically, local elections focus on national issues such as housing, electricity and social welfare. However, this time around, especially after the escalation in China, President Tsai Ing-wen urged voters to use these elections to stand up to China and demonstrate that Taiwanese democracy will not be bullied.

Despite its denials of being pro-China, the main opposition party, the KMT, has always been seen to have close ties with Beijing. During his campaigns, he avoided campaigning on China-related topics and instead focused more on internal issues.

On the other hand, pro-independence party candidates such as Taipei mayoral candidate Chen Shih-chung, a former DPP health minister, have pledged not to bow to China.

It is pertinent to mention here that the vote this time also allows for the proposed constitutional amendment to raise the voting age from 20 to 18 for the first time ever. The proposal angered Beijing as young Taiwanese increasingly favor independence and are enthusiastic about democracy.

China-Taiwan tensions

The Republic of China (ROC) government was established in exile when the Kuomintang administration, which had lost the Chinese Civil War, retreated to the island of Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China was founded on the Chinese mainland by the Communist Party of China (CCP).

Taiwan has enjoyed de facto independence since the end of the civil war and the CCP has never held power there. Taiwan has grown into a thriving democracy with free elections and media since the end of the decades-long martial law era in the 1980s.

Fewer than 15 foreign governments now recognize the ROC (Taiwan) as a country. This change in formal ties between the ROC and Beijing began in the 1970s.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping has made unity one of his top priorities. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says there is no need to declare independence because Taiwan is already a sovereign nation. Beijing, however, views Taiwan’s democratically elected government as separatist.

In recent years, under Xi’s leadership, China has sent many warplanes to Taiwan in “grey area” activities, which are close to combat but not up to war level. In order to prevent China led by Xi Jinping, Taiwan is currently trying to modernize its army and buy significant quantities of military equipment and weapons from the United States.

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