Taiwan deals blow to China in crucial presidential election

Tim O'Donnell

China was just dealt a significant blow in what one expert has described as potentially the year's most consequential presidential election.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen won a second term after a landslide electoral victory Saturday, despite efforts from China to sway the outcome. Tsai secured a record eight million votes, which amounted to 57.3 percent of the electorate compared to just 38.5 percent from her opponent Han Kuo-yu, who conceded.

Tsai favors independence from China and has pointed to the anti-Beijing, pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong as a warning for what could come in Taiwan if China doesn't take its foot off the gas in its attempts to reel the self-ruled island more tightly into its orbit. Han's party, meanwhile, is friendly with Beijing. Tsai was reportedly trailing badly in the polls just a year ago, but increasing aggression from Beijing toward Taiwan helped vault her back into office. "The results of this election carry an added significance," she told reporters after her victory. "They have shown that when our sovereignty is threatened, the Taiwanese people will shout our determination even more loudly back."

Natasha Kassam, a former Australian diplomat who now works with the Lowy Institute in Sydney, concurred with Tsai's assessment of the election's importance. "Not only is Taiwan a proxy for much of the world's strategy to deal with the consequences of an increasingly authoritarian China, but also Taiwan has been on the front lines of the Chinese Communist Party's aggression for decades," she told The Washington Post.

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