Taiwan Defies China, Elects Lai Ching-te

Taiwan’s presidential election results put it on a “collision course with China.”

That’s the assessment of strategist David Roche after the Taiwanese elected Lai Ching-te as their next leader on Saturday.

China claims Taiwan’s land and people as its own and has long vowed to bring the island under its control.

The Chinese say they’ll accomplish this by force if necessary, but they would prefer for Taiwan to willingly submit. Toward this end, the Chinese have a long history of working to influence Taiwanese elections, to install candidates who are more pro-China. And this latest election was no different. In the lead-up, the Chinese used a wide range of both intimidation tactics and enticements.

They applied economic pressure. They violated Taiwan’s airspace with more than 20 spy balloons. They filled Taiwanese social media with pro-China propaganda. And they paid for extravagant trips to China for some Taiwanese politicians.

So there were both sticks and carrots to try to make the Taiwanese elect a pro-China president. But these efforts failed. Lai Ching-te was China’s least favorite candidate. He is a member of Taiwan’s most anti-China party. And he has a long history of advocating for independence.

Roche said the election results show that “Taiwan is now a mature, sovereign, democratic state, and that is not something China will accept.”

So the Chinese likely feel their only option now is to use military force to conquer Taiwan.