Lai came out on top in a three-way race. The second-place Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KPT), which espouses a more accomodationist approach toward China, won 33.5 percent of the vote. Ko Wen-je of the the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) — a third-way party that advocates a middle ground between the DPP and KPT — came in third with 26.5 percent of the vote.
Why It Matters
China signaled its opposition to Lai ahead of the polls. The Chinese Communist Party regards Taiwan as a “breakaway province” and President Xi Jinping has forcefully called for the “reunification” with China.
Xi, according to U.S. intelligence assessments, has ordered his military to be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027 — in other words, by the end of Lai’s term.
How China Might React
In the leadup to the elections, China has stepped up its bullying of Taiwan with aggressive behavior, including aerial and maritime incursions into Taiwanese defensive zones, as part of an attempt to push voters away from the DPP.
Beijing will likely continue with these “gray zone” tactics. The immediate question is whether they will intensify after Lai’s victory.
Lai struck a conciliatory note after today’s victory, emphasizing the preservation of Taiwan’s status quo — a de facto independence without global recognition.
Most Taiwanese see the status quo as a sweet spot: they can preserve their democratic freedoms, self-rule, and prosperity, while avoiding direct conflict with China.
Xi, facing a severe economic crisis, may not seek conflict with Taiwan in the near future, but the road ahead for Taipei is deeply uncertain.
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