Beijing’s Response to Taiwan’s Election

January 23, 2024
A conversation between Bonnie Glaser and Rick Waters discussing the response of the Chinese government to the 2024 presidential election in Taiwan.

On January 13, 2024, voters in Taiwan elected the DPP’s Lai Ching-te as the next president of Taiwan. Lai won 40% of the votes–a plurality, but not a majority. In his acceptance speech, Lai pledged to safeguard Taiwan from continuing threats and intimidation from China. He also said that he has an important responsibility to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and reiterated a statement that the current president, Tsai Ing-wen, made 8 years ago: that he would act in accordance with the Republic of China constitutional order.

Beijing expected that Lai would win and was therefore well prepared. The statement, issued by the Taiwan Affairs Office shortly after the final tally was announced, emphasized that the election result would not change the trend of cross-Strait relations and said that reunification remained inevitable. It also warned against Taiwan independence and foreign interference.

This episode focuses on China’s perspectives on the election and its likely reaction going forward. Host Bonnie Glaser is joined by Rick Waters, who is managing director of Eurasia Group’s China practice. He served 27 years as a career diplomat, most recently as the inaugural head of the State Department’s Office of China Coordination and Deputy Secretary of State for China and Taiwan.

Episode Highlights:

[01:56] Interpreting Beijing’s Statements

[03:40] Views of the State Security Ministry

[04:38] Poaching Taiwan’s Diplomatic Ally Nauru

[06:53] Threat of Tariff Imposition

[08:37] Impact of Woodside Summit on Beijing’s Response

[10:02] What role do the Chinese want the Americans to play?

[11:13] Assessing the Efficacy of Chinese Policy Toward Taiwan

[13:40] Unofficial American Delegation Visiting Taiwan

[15:02] Post-Election Comment from President Biden

[16:26] Clarifying the US One-China Policy

[19:48] Xi Jinping’s Statements to Biden about Taiwan

[23:14] Is reunification a legacy issue for Xi Jinping?

[24:49] What are the most important variables moving forward?

[27:00] China and Peaceful Unification