Global leaders have sparked anger from Beijing by congratulating the newly elected president of Taiwan.

Estimated read time 6 min read

International leaders have expressed their congratulations to Lai Ching-te for his victory in Taiwan’s presidential election, commending the strong turnout and democratic procedures. This has sparked criticism from Beijing, who had hoped for the ruling party in Taiwan to be overthrown.

Lai won an unprecedented third term in power for the pro-sovereignty Democratic Progressive party (DPP) in Saturday’s election, with more than 40% of the vote. Lai is taking over from the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen, who has been president since 2016, promising to continue her foreign policy efforts in resisting China’s plans to annex Taiwan.

A representative from the US state department praised the Taiwanese citizens for showcasing the resilience of their strong democratic system and voting procedures once again.

After the outcome, President Joe Biden spoke to journalists and stated that the US remains opposed to Taiwanese independence. He also mentioned his intention to dispatch a non-official group to Taiwan in the upcoming week.

However, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on Sunday that the statement made by the US Department of State “severely breached its commitment to only maintaining cultural, economic, and other unofficial relations with Taiwan”. The Chinese ministry also expressed its strong disapproval to the US and lodged a formal complaint.

The DPP was also congratulated by the US, the UK, the European Union and Canada. David Cameron, the UK’s foreign secretary, stated that the outcome was a reflection of Taiwan’s thriving democracy.

However, the Chinese embassy in the UK expressed strong opposition to the actions of the British side and called on the UK government to refrain from any actions or statements that interfere with China’s domestic affairs.

Yoko Kamikawa, the foreign minister of Japan, recently made a statement congratulating Taiwan and referring to them as a critical partner and valued friend. However, this statement was strongly criticized by Beijing’s embassy in Tokyo, who deemed it a significant intrusion into China’s domestic matters.

Beijing expressed strong objections to Tokyo’s statement and had made formal protests, as the statement mainly restated Japan’s previous remarks.

Kamikawa also stated that Japan has shared core beliefs and maintains strong economic ties and cultural exchanges with Taiwan.

China’s response to Lai’s win has been predicted to be hostile. The Chinese government sees Taiwan as its own territory, even though it has never had control over the island. Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has stated that reuniting China and Taiwan is a top priority and has not ruled out using force to achieve this goal. The Chinese government strongly opposes the DPP, which it sees as separatists, and tried to sway voters against the party through verbal and psychological tactics, but these attempts were ultimately unsuccessful.

After the outcome on Saturday, Chen Binhua, the representative of the Taiwan Affairs Office for China, restated their belief that “Taiwan belongs to China” and reaffirmed their dedication to the “unavoidable progress” of taking control.

This election will not alter the fundamental course and trajectory of cross-strait relations… that the mainland will ultimately be reunited.

The foreign ministry of Taiwan denounced the comments made on Sunday as false, ridiculous, and not deserving of a response.

The statement declared that considering Taiwan as an “internal Chinese matter” is completely contradictory to global views and the current state of relations between Taiwan and mainland China. It also goes against the desires of the democratic world and the Taiwanese population, who hold democracy in high regard.

Lai Ching-te after being elected the next president of Taiwan.

According to Dali Yang, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, the TAO received backlash from Chinese nationalists who believed that their attempts to sway public opinion in Taiwan towards a pro-China stance had not succeeded.

Recently, Beijing has increased its military and economic pressure on Taiwan, causing worry among global watchers that a potential conflict may arise. On Friday, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced that it was prepared and vigilant to thwart any attempts at Taiwanese independence, but there were no notable actions taken on the day of the election.

Amanda Hsiao, a senior China analyst with the International Crisis Group based in Taipei, believes that Beijing will respond to Lai’s win by exerting more pressure, especially leading up to his inauguration in May. However, this response is expected to be less openly aggressive compared to the extensive military exercises that have taken place in the past few years.

“She stated that Lai was labeled as a troublemaker, so there is an anticipation for them to take action.”

China urges its allies to support its territorial claim over Taiwan. On Saturday, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that Moscow continued to view Taiwan as an integral part of China.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry has accused Russia of aligning itself with the Chinese Communist regime and actively promoting the “One China principle.” This principle, which asserts that Taiwan is a Chinese province, is a key component of Beijing’s domestic policies.

Lai has described his victory as a “triumph for the global community of democratic nations.” On Saturday, nearly 72% of eligible voters participated in the election, securing a third term for the DPP. However, they did not receive a majority mandate.

The presence of a third contender, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), led by presidential candidate Ko Wen-je, divided the opposition votes. The TPP garnered 26.4%, while the Kuomintang (KMT) received 33.5%.

In addition, the TPP secured eight seats in the legislative yuan, granting Ko significant authority in the 113-seat parliament where neither the DPP nor KMT obtained a majority, receiving 51 and 52 seats respectively.

According to Wen-Ti Sung, a China specialist at the Australian National University, Taiwan has now formally adopted a three-party political system, making it more challenging to reach consensus, particularly on significant legislative matters.

According to Yang, a professor at the University of Chicago, each party involved in the situation received less than what they wanted, but still more than what they had originally planned for. This also applies to China, where Beijing did not want Lai to win, but was happy that the DPP lost control of parliament, limiting Lai’s ability to make policy changes.


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