Tsai’s Likely Reelection in Taiwan Will Lead to More Tensions With China

Tsai’s Likely Reelection in Taiwan Will Lead to More Tensions With China
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech as she launches her reelection campaign in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 17, 2019 (AP photo by Chiang Ying-ying).

Just over a year ago, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s political fortunes were stuck in a downward spiral. She resigned as leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, after it suffered a historic rout in local elections in 2018, losing 16 out of 22 key municipal and county-level leadership races. In the weeks following that drubbing, her approval rating dropped to an all-time low of 24 percent.

It looked as though Taiwan’s first female president would also be the first to serve only a single term in office. Who could have predicted then that Tsai would “rise from the ashes,” as Bloomberg put it, to become the overwhelming favorite in this weekend’s presidential election? One recent poll gave her a 30-point lead over her opponent, Han Guo-yu of the main opposition Kuomintang party, or KMT.

The likely prospect of a second term for Tsai doesn’t bode well for relations with China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has vowed to bring it under Chinese control—by force if necessary. Ties have been fraught during Tsai’s tenure as she has taken a firm stance against Beijing’s increasingly hard line. China severed lines of communication with Tsai’s government soon after her election in 2016 and has employed a variety of pressure tactics against her and to the benefit of the KMT, which favors closer relations with China. These have included shows of military force, like sailing a brand-new aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait, and isolating Taipei by poaching its diplomatic allies around the world.

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