Asia Minute: Taiwan’s Political Complications

Mar 14, 2019

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen
Credit MiNe / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

The United States is far from the only country to be facing a presidential election next year. One of the more interesting races may turn out to be Taiwan — where not all the influences on the campaign are domestic.

Government leaders in Beijing are keeping a close watch on politics in Taiwan.

Incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen swept to the presidency of Taiwan by a substantial margin in 2016, but approval ratings have tumbled for both her administration and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

This week, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency quoted the president as saying relations with China must be “viewed in a positive way, but only when the principle of equal dignity is safeguarded.”

The response from Beijing did not exactly exude “equal dignity.”

A spokesman for the mainland government’s Taiwan Affairs Office told reporters this week that any attempt to block the return of Taiwan to the political control of China is like “stretching out an arm to block a car.”

It’s the latest part in a continuing campaign to try and isolate the Taipei government. Since Tsai took office, the number of countries officially recognizing Taiwan has dropped from 22 to 17.

Half a dozen of those remaining are Pacific Island nations, and President Tsai is off on a diplomatic mission to shore up those ties.

The Financial Times reports Taiwan’s president will travel to Palau and the Marshall Islands among other stops, starting next week. Taiwan’s deputy foreign minister said the trip will “deepen ties and friendly relations” with Taipei’s island allies.