How should society view Tsai Ing-wen re-elected in Taiwan?
Editor's note: Zhang Hua is an expert at the Institute of Taiwan Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
On January 11, China's Taiwan region held leadership elections, and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen was re-elected. Her victory has little to do with the Chinese mainland's Taiwan policy. The strong strategic resources and capabilities possessed by the Chinese mainland, especially the major achievements made through reforms in the new era, will ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Several reasons speak for the DPP's triumph. First, the DPP outsmarted the Kuomintang(KMT) in election campaigning. Known as a well-oiled election machine, the DPP accurately took the pulse of the people on the island and put forward policy ideas that could resonate with the local people. It also dug deep into the weak spots of its political rivals and then launched extensive media and public opinion campaigns to make a good case. That said, campaign skills only guarantee the DPP's wining at a "technical" level. The key to Tsai's success is that a major change of demographic structure, political identity and public participation in politics has been taking place on the island.
In terms of demographics, Tsai Ing-wen won the support of young people on the island. She got almost 70 percent of the votes among people aged 20 to 39 and surpassed her political rival, Han Kuo-yu, among people over 40.
In terms of political identity, since Lee Teng-hui initiated the "de-sinicization" in the local education, almost everyone under 40 grew up being indoctrinated with the idea of "independence." Also, with the development of political activities such as elections, the ideas of "self-awareness," "ownership" and "de-sinicization" have gradually taken hold and spread among people over the age of 40.
In terms of political participation, a large number of young Taiwanese returned to local ballot stations to cast their votes and eventually altered the election results. Prior to this election, it was predicted that Han Kuo-yu would win because Tsai's young supporters would not turn out to vote in light of their past voting behavior. The voter turnout in this election increased substantially, by almost 10 percent, which was mainly contributed by the active young voters.
Tsai's overwhelming victory has little to do with the Chinese mainland's Taiwan policy. In the election, Tsai did make a fuss of the strategic competition between China and the U.S. and the fugitive bill movement in Hong Kong to propagate a "sense of fear" in the region. This only demonstrates that cross-Strait relations are one of the important factors influencing elections on the island.
In recent years, the Chinese mainland has been adhering to the policy of "peaceful reunification" and the "One Country, Two Systems" principle to drive the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, the promotion of cross-Strait economic integration and equal treatment of Taiwan compatriots. These are all wise decisions. Such policies have been welcomed by the people on the island, especially the Taiwan compatriots who have come to the mainland to find jobs, start businesses and receive an education.
The future of cross-Strait relations may be full of challenges, but confidence should be put in place to address them. At the press conference on the evening of January 11, Tsai Ing-wen highlighted cross-Strait relations and put forward a proposition of "peace, parity, democracy and dialogue." This again shows Tsai's ability to tread a fine line and evade responsibility. She was not vocal about the so-called Taiwan independence, but every word she said hinted at it.
The Chinese mainland has repeatedly stated that the lynchpin of cross-Strait relations is to uphold the 1992 Consensus and oppose to the "Taiwan independence." If Tsai does not take a clear stance on the above two issues, the chance of cross-Strait relations improvement is flimsy.
However, even if Tsai does not change her original stance, or steps up her efforts to promote separatist activities, the Chinese mainland is confident and able to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.