It was a highly contested election. A record number 8.17 million voters cast their ballots for Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, allowing her to be re-elected president. The number of citizens who cast their votes is the most ever for a presidential candidate since the island began holding direct presidential elections in 1996.
Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) pose a rebuking wall to Beijing’s ever-growing attempts to instill its soft power mechanisms in Taiwan, similar to how it is doing in Hong Kong. But the 2020 presidential elections show that millions of Taiwan citizens have a clear idea about their nation’s ideals and its political path.
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“Democratic Taiwan and our democratically elected government will not concede to threats and intimidation,” Tsai proclaimed to cheering supporters during an election rally. “The results of this election have made that answer crystal clear,” She added.
Here are 6 main reasons experts believe Tsai won the presidential election:
1. Her attitude toward the CCP (Chinese Communist Party)
Geo-politically speaking, many countries are aligning themselves in solidarity to eradicate communism because historically speaking, there has been no other system that has posed a similar threat to universal human values, traditional cultures, and moral systems.
There are many examples of how China destroyed numerous cultural sites and even today tries to defuse traditional culture and values in the name of CCP ideology.
According to political analysts, by 2019, the Chinese Communist Party had become the number one protagonist on a global scale against human rights, universal moral values, freedom of speech, and freedom of belief.
One of the most frightening characteristics of the CCP, which has been repeatedly highlighted by organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW), is its relentless campaign against peaceful groups such as the 20-year-long and still ongoing persecution of Falun Gong, the increasing crackdown on Christians, Xinjiang Uyghurs, human rights lawyers, and pro-democracy activists in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.
There have been many cases where Party members have been shown to be among the most corrupt in the world. So much so, that even the regime’s current leader Xi Jinping had to step in and take action, before corruption could possibly consume the Party itself.
Most of Taiwan’s citizens see the CCP’s anti-human rights, anti-democracy, and pro-corruption agenda as a threat to the international values of democracy, human rights, and the freedoms of speech and belief.
In her political campaigning and many of her postures towards the soft power actions from Beijing in the past, Tsai has shown that she has no fear of opposing the mainland’s attempts to enforce Beijing’s soft power mechanism in Taiwan.
Many experts agree that this open-minded approach to democratic questions has helped make Tsai so popular among voters.
2. Her attitude toward Hong Kong (HK)
In June 2019, the Anti-extradition Movement in Hong Kong erupted. The extradition bill was merely the tipping point that sparked the “no more” attitude toward the mainland’s decade-long attempt to instill its soft power in Hong Kong.
Many legal and sociological experts see the Chinese regime’s current methods of intervening in the HK pro-democracy movements as unethical, immoral, and often illegal.
The attempts to tip the scale in favor of Beijing’s soft power and control over Hong Kong’s government and legislative decisions have seemingly resulted in the violent repression of Hong Kong protesters by police.
For this reason, one of the five demands that Hong Kong protesters so vigorously seek is an investigation into police violence and its ties to Beijing and corrupt police in HK.
Besides the reports of corrupt police who shot and killed protesters at close range or assaulted people to death, there are also reports of police besieging university campuses, posing as protesters, setting fires, raping, staging suicides, and more.
Those who follow these often-suppressed reports claim that these acts of violence and disregard for human dignity are writing HK’s darkest pages into the books of history.
From the very beginning of the anti-extradition movement, Tsai Ing-wen continuously expressed her support for the HK people’s struggle to gain freedom and democracy. She even offered a number of measures to solve the problems for Hong Kong people who had fled to Taiwan amidst the political persecution at home.
Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly reminded the Taiwanese people: “What happens to Hong Kong today can happen to Taiwan tomorrow.” Experts believe it is Tsai Ing-wen’s solidarity-attitude toward Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom movement that won her the support of a large number of Taiwanese voters.
3. Her attitude toward Taiwan
Protecting Taiwan’s democratic freedoms and its sovereignty have been key-points that Tsai has repeatedly emphasized during her election campaign. Without Taiwan’s sovereign-independence, there would be no freedom and democracy in Taiwan.
According to President Tsai, these two principals complement each other and are indispensable. Thus, when comparing Hong Kong and Taiwan, it is important to use these two principles as a measuring stick for improvement.
Many critics who have been able to see behind the curtains claim that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Mrs. Carrie Lam, is in fact a puppet in the hands of the CCP. Many people voicing their agony claim the media manipulated by the CCPs propaganda machinery does not mention “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy.”
A fact that is also often left out in the Beijing-controlled media is that Taiwan’s sovereignty remains undeterred by the CCP. In other words, the Chinese Mainland’s communist regime doesn’t exert any form of soft-power and control over Taiwan.
Twenty-three million Taiwanese residents enjoy “freedom of belief, freedom of expression, without fear and deficiency” — which is the main difference between Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Past issues between Taiwan and the United Nations (UN) have shown that Mainland China finds other ways to enforce its soft power in an offensive way against nations and organizations that defy its central-power-agenda.
While citizens in Taiwan are able to elect a president or a legislator, people in Hong Kong do not have this voting power. Even though Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, who was hand-picked to rule by CCP party leaders claims she rules independently, many experts following her decisions and Beijing’s agenda claim otherwise.
According to a media report about the Chinese government’s response to the victory of pro-democracy candidates in Hong Kong’s November 2019 elections, the Chinese government countered “by emphasizing that the city will always be ruled from Beijing.”
The so-called “one person/one vote” that ensures democratic power in Taiwan also guarantees freedom, the rule of law, and human rights in Taiwan. Tsai Ing-wen’s attitude toward Taiwan’s basic principles that define Taiwan’s sovereign foothold on the world’s geopolitical stage has evidently instilled her in the hearts of the Taiwanese voters.
4. Her attitude toward youth
Experts claim that Tsai’s popular standing among the country’s youth is also a win-factor that steered the outcomes of the elections in her favor. According to statistics, the population of Taiwan ranging between the ages of 20 and 35 amounts to nearly 5 million people, more than a quarter of the electorate.
In the 2020 presidential election, the DPP and Tsai Ing-wen brought quite a few young people on board to help steer the party’s direction into a future that also included questions that were important for the country’s youth.
The DPP and Tsai brought in many young talents, such as the 32-year-old “Sun Flower Movement” leader Lin Feifan, who was appointed deputy secretary-general of the DPP. “This election campaign is for Taiwan’s future young people,” Tsai said.
“Taiwanese living abroad, especially young people, will have to go back to Taiwan to vote this time. Hopefully, I can use my vote to protect my future and my life in the future,” Lin Feifan commented.
According to independent Chinese-language media: “[T]he Chinese Communist Party has become the biggest threat in the Taiwan Strait region and the entire world. U.S. President Trump has clearly identified the Chinese Communist Party as the number one strategic opponent of the United States and launched a comprehensive counterattack against the Chinese Communist Party from various fields such as economy, military, science and technology, human rights, and ideology. Taiwan is at the forefront of confrontation between the free world and the CCP.”
Since Taiwan stands for part of the free world, the CCP being a threat to the free world is also a threat to the future of Taiwan’s youth. Tsai managed to put the needs of the Taiwanese youth at the forefront of her political efforts, signaling that the future of Taiwan’s youth was a core target of her party’s efforts.
5. Tsai’s attitude toward the United States
The United States is considered to be the most powerful country in the world. A prevailing notion is that having good relations with the United States is an important base for political leaders around the world to establish their foothold in their own countries and on the international stage.
Based on shared values, shared social systems, and deep historical roots, Tsai Ing-wen attaches great importance to developing relations with the United States. In the past three years, Taiwan-U.S. relations have improved across the board, reaching their highest level in 40 years.
U.S. support for Taiwan is unprecedented, and Taiwan is an important part of the U.S.-India-Taiwan strategy. Putting Taiwan-U.S. relations at the top of Taiwan’s foreign relations has given Tsai an important point of leverage through external support.
6. Her attitude toward Falun Gong
The core ideals of Falun Gong are “truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance,” which are universal values. The Communist Party of China has been persecuting Falun Gong for the last 20 years — basically signaling that the universal values that Falun Gong has in common with the rest of the world do not align with the CCP’s agenda and values.
Taiwan has the largest number of Chinese Falun Gong practitioners in the world, outside of mainland China.
Tsai Ing-wen not only respects and guarantees the freedom of belief for Falun Gong practitioners in Taiwan, but also expresses opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong in different ways.
Last October, Tsai Ing-wen’s government made it clear that Communist Party officials who were involved with the persecution of Falun Gong would not be allowed to enter Taiwan. In March last year, Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan had chosen to stand with people oppressed by authoritarian regimes, who were deprived of their religious freedom.
According to Tsai Ing-wen, the matter of how we treat the question regarding the persecution of Falun Gong is not a small matter. It should not be left to chance to be resolved but should be proactively dealt with. How we deal with such major issues regarding right and wrong, good and evil determine how we position ourselves on the historical scale of righteousness and evil.
Tsai Ing-wen’s treatment of Falun Gong was also one of the main reasons for her victory.
The Taiwan election has had an important impact on both Taiwan and the global landscape and has attracted wide attention.
Tsai Ing-wen has turned things around from the downturn in 2018 with surprising success. Her words and actions are an inspiration that will likewise spark many thoughts and inspire others, thus impacting the geopolitical playing field of international society.
Her open advocacy for universal values like freedom of speech and freedom of belief has put her in the hearts of many citizens who see Taiwan’s future more as being one full of freedoms and less of one filled by a centralized regime under Beijing’s control.
Translation and Research by Yi Ming, rewritten by Hermann Rohr