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EDITORIAL | In Rebuff of China, Taiwan Elects Lai Ching-te as President

For Lai to be able to safeguard the liberty and democracy of Taiwan, China's infiltration efforts must be vigorously pursued.



DPP candidate Lai Ching-te declares victory in Taiwan's presidential election in front of his supporters in Taipei on Saturday evening January 13. To his right is his running mate Hsiao Bi-khim.(© Sankei by Kengo Matsumoto.)

Lai Ching-te (William Lai) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the Saturday, January 13 Taiwan presidential election. It was a three-way battle with New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT) and former Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People's Party (TPP). The DPP will thus retain power, with the current vice president, Lai, succeeding President Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai was ineligible to run for reelection due to term limits. 

China, under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is constantly increasing pressure to annex the island democracy. It is therefore extremely significant that the people of Taiwan demonstrated the maturity of their democracy through the presidential election. 

The new president will enjoy a five-year term lasting through 2028. Some United States government officials have expressed concern that China could employ military force to invade Taiwan before 2027. That year marks the centennial of the founding of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). 

Announcement of the preliminary vote count brought cheers at DPP headquarters in Taipei on the afternoon of January 13. (© Sankei by Kengo Matsumoto)

Economic policy has also been a point of contention in the presidential election. Even so, Dr Lai's greatest responsibility is to protect Taiwan's freedom and democracy from the threat posed by China. 

A Brazen Disinformation Campaign

During the election, China brazenly carried out operations to influence and manipulate public opinion.

For example, in a widespread practice leading up to the election, village heads and other grassroots opinionmakers received invitations for heavily subsidized trips to China. False reports slandering DPP politicians also flooded social media outlets. There was likewise an incident in which a Taiwanese journalist for an online media outlet was detained by authorities in late 2023. He was held on suspicion of having disseminated fabricated presidential poll results at the behest of provincial CCP officials in Fujian Province.

From the beginning of January, Chinese balloons also began flying over the island of Taiwan. Then on January 9, without any prior notice, a rocket carrying a satellite passed through the skies over Taiwan.

An alert was sent out on January 9 warning that a satellite launched in China passed over southern Taiwan.i (©Kyodo)

Furthermore, China has not been the least bit reluctant to engage in economic blackmail. For example, in December it decided to suspend some of the preferential tariffs that it had agreed to with Taiwan.

China should be ashamed of its interference and attacks upon democracy and never repeat such conduct. It should also strictly avoid attempts to cause trouble when the Lai administration is launched in May.


Safeguarding Liberty and Democracy

For Lai to be able to safeguard liberty and democracy, China's infiltration efforts must be vigorously pursued. And for Taiwan to improve its deterrence vis-a-vis China, its defense capabilities must be enhanced on an urgent basis. 

As a nation that lacks democracy and the rule of law, China adheres to the principle that "might is right." Taiwan must remain ever aware of the importance of strengthening its deterrence capabilities, even while it continues to engage in dialogue with such an autocratic neighbor. This is necessary for maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese warship Luyang III sails near and crosses in front of the US destroyer USS Chung-Hoon. (US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andre T. Richard/Handout via REUTERS)

A crisis for Taiwan would be a crisis for Japan. For Japan to protect its own peace and prosperity, it must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States and Taiwan.

Japan does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state. Nevertheless, now is the time to deepen bilateral relations through security dialogue between foreign and defense authorities as well as economic security dialogue on issues such as semiconductors. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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