Fourth, international bias favors the KMT. Although Chinese influence was by far the strongest international factor in the election, perhaps more disconcerting was the role played by some leading democracies, especially the US.
Despite official proclamations of neutrality, at least some elements of the US government were perceived by Taiwanese voters to support Ma’s re-election.
There was a sudden flurry of high-level US official visits, coupled with the announcement of Taiwan’s candidacy for visa-free status (which has not yet been confirmed) just before the election.
In addition, an unnamed US official told the Financial Times that Tsai had failed to win US leaders’ confidence on her trip to Washington, and former AIT director Douglas Paal came to Taiwan to openly endorse Ma.
Historically, the US has acted as a counterweight to China’s threats, giving Taiwanese more confidence to pursue democracy. The appearance of US government support for Ma and his policies diminishes hope for real progress in Taiwan.
Ma’s pro-China policies may have some superficial appeal in the form of purported short-term economic benefits.
However, the consequence is the insidious process of integrating Taiwan into China. Opinion polls show that Taiwanese do not want to become part of China. They want to live in a free and democratic country, a goal that aligns with the interests of the US and the rest of the free world.
As the KMT redoubles its efforts to maintain power, working closely in partnership with China, elections in Taiwan will never be free and fair. Democratization in Taiwan is losing ground, and the situation is getting worse. Taiwanese are beginning to feel the forces arrayed against them becoming stronger by the day. If we do not reverse course before it is too late, the end result will be Taiwan becoming a part of Communist China. This is not in the best interests of Taiwan or the US.
Taiwanese are holding on to a dream of democracy, but they need the help of the international community — especially the US — to have a chance in their David versus Goliath fight against the partnership of the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party.
At this time when democracy in Taiwan is under threat, it is in the US government’s own long-term strategic interest to continue providing support and exerting pressure to help bring about the reforms necessary to realize the dream of true democracy in Taiwan.
Wu Li-pei is a former senior presidential adviser