FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
TAIPEI – The squares of Taipei were filled with hundreds of thousands of citizens on the night before the presidential and legislative elections, with a very strong and encouraging presence of young people. It is this popular participation in rallies and in democracy that poses the greatest challenge to China and its Communist Party, which is intolerant of any idea that is not dictated by power. The man who will take the helm of the island will emerge from today's elections, primarily to defend it from the Chinese threat of “reunification.”
The Chinese army yesterday reminded that it is ready and determined to “thwart any independence plan.” The three presidential candidates have different ideas about how to reduce the danger: However, they all vow to defend the status quo, i.e. freedom from Beijing.
Last-minute geopolitical games are taking place between Beijing and Washington. The United States is consulting China to ensure that the proclamation of Taiwan's new leader does not serve as a pretext for a wave of military aggression. China has also been campaigning in its own way in recent days, brutally admonishing the Taiwanese to “make the right choice” because the alternative “is between peace and war.” Xi Jinping's bête noire is William Lai Ching-te of the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party), the current vice president, who speaks openly of “de facto sovereignty, without the need to proclaim independence.” During the eight years of the DPP government, Beijing has closed every channel of dialogue, threatened and prepared a violent solution.
Following talks between senior military officials from the two superpowers at the Pentagon earlier this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken scheduled a meeting in Washington yesterday with Liu Jianchao, head of the Chinese Communist Party's international department. The White House wants to insulate and protect the US-China relationship, renewed at the summit between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in November, from tensions over the Taiwan issue.
Liu Jianchao expressed moderate public sentiment, noting that “the United States is committed not to support the island's independence.” That is formally clear, but President Biden has also promised massive military aid to protect Taipei from aggression. And the White House is preparing an unofficial mission (former senior official) for consultations with the new Taiwanese president. Washington, which recognizes “One China,” the communist one, is using the tools of former officials to avoid angering Beijing too much, although it still wants to send a signal of political solidarity to Taipei.
Lai's main opponent, the Kuomintang candidate Hou Yu-ih, offers China relaxation, but “without illusions” because Taiwan can seek dialogue but not surrender to the dictates of “reunification”. The third man in the race, surgeon Ko Wen-jie, who leads the Taiwan People's Party (TPP), says that “Taiwan must take steps and openings that are tolerable and acceptable to both China and the United States.” Resist and be flexible in the face of the Chinese threat and in the midst of the dispute between the two superpowers: this is the risky mission of Taiwan's next president.