China Has Lost Taiwan, and It Knows It

So it is attacking democracy on the island from within.

The New York Tmes
Date: Dec. 1, 2019
By Natasha Kassam

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan and her running mate, William Lai Ching-te, campaigning in Taipei on Nov. 17. Ms. Tsai has vehemently denounced interference from Beijing.Credit…Chiang Ying-Ying/Associated Press\

“Not a chance,” the president’s tweet said, in Chinese characters. That was the message from Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of Taiwan, on Nov. 5, after the Chinese government announced a string of initiatives to lure Taiwanese companies and residents to the mainland.

“Beijing’s new 26 measures are part of a greater effort to force a ‘one country, two systems’ model on #Taiwan,” Ms. Tsai’s tweet said, referring to the principle according to which Hong Kong — another territory Beijing eventually hopes to fully control — is supposed to be governed for now and its semiautonomy from Beijing guaranteed. “I want to be very clear: China’s attempts to influence our elections & push us to accept ‘one country, two systems’ will never succeed.” The protesters who have mobilized in Hong Kong for months say, in effect, that the principle is a lie.

In Taiwan, the Chinese government’s objective has long been what it calls “peaceful reunification” — “reunification” even though Taiwan has never been under the jurisdiction or control of the People’s Republic of China or the Chinese Communist Party. To achieve that goal, Beijing has for years tried to simultaneously coax and coerce Taiwan’s adhesion with both the promise of economic benefits and military threats. Early this year, President Xi Jinping of China reiterated that “complete reunification” was a “historic task.” “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means,” he added.

Taiwan is gearing up for a presidential election in January. On Nov. 17, Ms. Tsai announced that the pro-independence William Lai Ching-te, a former prime minister, would be her running mate. On the same day, China sent an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait. (In July, China had released its defense white paper, and it stated, “By sailing ships and flying aircraft around Taiwan, the armed forces send a stern warning to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”) Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, reacted by tweeting: “#PRC intends to intervene in #Taiwan’s elections. Voters won’t be intimidated! They’ll say NO to #China at the ballot box.”

The Chinese government also seems to suspect as much: Even as it holds fast to its usual (ineffectual) strong-arm tactics, it is employing new measures as well. It no longer is simply supporting candidates from the Kuomintang, a party that now favors closer ties with Beijing. It is also trying to undermine Taiwan’s democratic process itself and sow social divisions on the island.

It seems clear by now that even Beijing-friendly candidates cannot deliver Taiwan to China. Only about one in 10 Taiwanese people support unification with China, whether sooner or later, according to a survey by the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University in October. Given public opinion, presidential candidates are likely to hurt their chances if they are perceived as being too close to the Chinese government.    [FULL  STORY]