Tag Archives: william lai

Lai wins but DPP lose majority in Taiwan

Phil Bennion with William Lai

With other members of the Liberal International Bureau and senior members of CALD (Council of Asian Liberal and Democrats) I flew to Taiwan for a 5-day mission in solidarity with the Democratic Progressive Party, our sister party in Taiwan, who were facing a challenging election.

The emergence of the Taiwan People’s Party as a third force made the election results less predictable and unprecedented and relentless messaging from China was urging the Taiwanese to “choose peace” by ditching the Democratic Progressive Party.

Our first meeting was with the International Republican Institute, a refreshingly centrist group of people considering the current direction of their US sponsors. Their work in Taiwan is outward looking across East Asia, including mainland China, but they have now closed their office in Hong Kong and programs in China are now virtually impossible to deliver. Some of their work is related to influence and disinformation emanating from the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP narrative on voting  Kuomintang (KMT – Chinese Nationalist Party) for peace or DPP for war were being amplified by Chinese state operatives through online media.  Internally they work cross party on democratic principles with youth across Taiwan. They find that the younger KMT supporters are not interested in any form of unification with China. They are generally third generation since the 1949 influx and have grown up as Taiwanese. Hence the actual positions of the two main parties is now much closer and both are supporting the status quo, albeit with differing levels of enthusiasm.

Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) are working on similar themes and told us that the CCP were also pushing the idea that the US is an unreliable ally and may abandon Taiwan, or that the DPP would use conscription to force young voters to take up arms against China. The CCP is now mainly using Tik-Tok to spread distrust of democracy and antipathy to the DPP amongst Taiwanese youth, but research shows that only 6% of Taiwanese support unification with China at any point in the future.

Our questions included some regarding the issue of same sex marriage introduced by the DPP, which the two opposition parties officially support, but comments by TPP leader Ko has cast doubt on this and many KMT legislators have openly stated their wish to abolish it. Despite this lack of commitment by the opposition, the DPP have been losing support from the youth vote. This is partly due to the Chinese Tik-Tok barrage of messaging, but also due to lack of affordable housing which affects young voters most. The TPP and Ko have seized on this issue in the election campaign. Ko has also attracted younger voters with his vulgar style, somewhat similar to that of Trump.

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