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Taiwan's 2024 Presidential Election: The History & Geopolitical Implications

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate, Lai Ching-te, won Taiwan's presidential election on Saturday, Jan 13, 2024. This victory marks the third consecutive election victory for a party, a first for the young election process. Taiwan's first official election was in 1996 after the (then) authoritarian Kuomintang party (now the main rival of the DPP) lost political control of Taiwan after pressure from the U.S. at the end of the Cold War and growing political consciousness within its people forced the party to turn towards democratic governance. 

In the 2024 election, the DPP ran on Taiwanese autonomy from China, social welfare, and a need for government transparency/anti-corruption oversight. Kuomintang ran on the principle of being the more substantiated and peaceful party. Proclaiming to voters that if they voted for the Kuomintang candidate, Hou Yu-ih, it would be the better option for sustainable interdependence with China. Kuomintang has been contentious with the Chinese Communist Party since 1949 (during the Chinese Civil War) but has built a rapport with China over time. This relationship is through cultural exchanges of people and resources via the Taiwan Strait. China is the largest trade partner and source of investment Taiwan has. With that, economic ties may be due to China working to diplomatically isolate the island of Taiwan to make the country dependent on China.

A third party, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), had its second presidential run in the 2024 election - securing 26.5% of presidential votes and 8 legislative seats. In comparison, Kuomintang secured 52 seats and DPP secured 51. Even though the TPP lost the presidential race, it has earned its spot in Taiwan's political discussion. It was formed by Ko Wen-je, the Mayor of Taipei, in 2019. The party generates a large amount of support from residents of Taipei. As a centrist party, it functions as a third option for voters who feel polarized by the two major political parties in the country. In 2024, TPP ran on social welfare, economic development, and urban planning. The party has appealed to younger generations in Taiwan. 

The continued support of the DPP highlights the Taiwanese desire to become independent from the Chinese Communist Party. China lays claim to Taiwan by referencing texts such as the Cairo Declaration (1943, Taiwan ownership taken from Japan and given to China) and the Potsdam Proclamation (1945). These documents also assist the viewpoint of the one-China Policy, which is respected internationally. Additionally, at the United Nations Assembly in 1971, the People's Republic of China was recognized as the only legitimate government of China, which removed the old Republic of China (the side that lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and went to Taiwan) as a governing force. China is adamant about maintaining its territorial ownership of Taiwan, even as Taiwan has been operating independently for many years. Many are unsure if the DPP will escalate the tension between the two countries to achieve its independence, simultaneously dragging the U.S. in, as it would be a democratic ally. China may also be the one to escalate tensions between itself and Taiwan to claim the country. Upon hearing the election results, Biden stated the U.S. does not support Taiwan's independence from China. The U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, stated: “We look forward to working with Dr. Lai and Taiwan's leaders of all parties to advance our shared interests and values, and to further our longstanding unofficial relationship, consistent with the U.S. one-China policy.”


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