China is unlikely to back down from its hardline stance against Taiwan in the wake of the Jan. 11 elections, which gave President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) a second term, a US academic said.
Larry Diamond, a professor of sociology and political science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the school’s Hoover Institution, said in an interview that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) never seems to learn from history, despite lessons that intimidation against Taiwan “will not work.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has been a “calamitous failure” as a leader, and the Taiwanese election results were the latest indication of that, but there are no signs that the CCP is waking up to reality, said Diamond, who was a foreign observer during the election.
“As a result, I predict more tensions and intimidation ahead, and the need for strong nerves, clear resolve and sustained partnership between the US and Taiwan to defend the sovereignty and security of the Republic of China, Taiwan,” he said.
Looking back, Diamond said that in 1996, Beijing launched missile tests in the Taiwan Strait in an attempt to influence Taiwan’s first direct presidential election, in what became known as the Taiwan Strait Crisis.
Although that tactic failed, Xi sent aircraft carriers through the Taiwan Strait twice before the presidential and legislative elections this year, Diamond said.
Despite this, Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) scored a victory, he said referring to Tsai beating Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, by more than 18 percentage points and the DPP retaining its legislative majority by taking 61 seats.
“I think the very heavy and enthusiastic voter turnout was a decisive statement by the Taiwan people in favor of their democracy and against intimidation from mainland China,” Diamond said.
China now faces “a moment of truth” in Taiwan, as well as in Hong Kong, where democracy protests have been ongoing for many months, he said.
The Chinese government could opt for “patient negotiations and accommodation, and try to defuse both situations through a more humble and sincere approach,” or it could continue with its “bullying, intimidation and will for domination,” which would only push Taiwan and Hong Kong further away, he said.
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