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Beijing’s dilemma: What to do with President-elect William Lai, January 22, 2024

This Latest article by our friend Professor Zhu Zhiqun describes why the uncertain cross-strait relationship has been prolonged now that the Democratic Progressive Party’s William Lai has been elected as Taiwan’s next president. Beijing is stuck in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation with regard to how it could handle its future relationship with Lai. The US elections in November will also have a key bearing on US-China relations and the prospects for stability across the Taiwan Strait.

This is my take way from Professor Zhu’s article:

  • Mixed Outcomes for Parties:
    • The DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) and Lai are considered winners, but Lai only secured 40% of the votes, and the DPP lost its majority in the Legislative Yuan.
    • “Both the KMT (Kuomintang) and the TPP (Taiwan People’s Party) can claim small victories since the KMT reemerged as the largest party in the legislature by increasing its seats to 52, more than DPP’s 51.
    • The TPP emerged as a new party with 8 seats, becoming the third largest party that will be wooed by the two larger parties in order to form a majority in the Legislative Yuan.”
  • From the US Perspective:
    • Washington prefers the DPP and Lai due to concerns about the KMT being perceived as pro-China and the TPP’s unpredictability.
    • The US is also cautious about Lai’s self-label as a “pragmatic worker of Taiwan independence.”
  • Beijing’s Dilemma – Uncertain Cross-Strait Relations:
    • Lai’s election poses a challenge for Beijing as the cross-strait relationship continues to be ambiguous.
    • Beijing may consider economic, military, and diplomatic measures against Taiwan.
  • US-China Cooperation Crucial:
    • US-China cooperation is needed for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
    • The result of the November 2024 US election could be crucial, with a Biden victory ensuring relative stability, while Trump’s return may introduce uncertainty.

In summary, the article highlights the complex dynamics and challenges faced by Beijing, Washington, and Taipei in the aftermath of Taiwan’s presidential election.

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