CHINA WATCHTaiwan's Choice: China or the United States?

By William Yang

Published 19 April 2023

Following overseas trips by the current and former Taiwanese presidents, political parties are gearing up for Taiwan’s 2024 election, with the slogan “war or peace” dominating the conversation.

Following two high-profile overseas trips by President Tsai Ing-wen and former leader Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s major political parties are gradually gearing up for the 2024 presidential election.

Branding his trip to mainland China as an attempt to restore peace across the Taiwan Strait, Ma — who is from the main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT) — said tension with China had escalated under Tsai’s administration and Taiwan would have to choose between “peace and war.”

On the other hand, Tsai — who recently met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy — told journalists that leaders of Taiwan’s two Central American allies, Guatemala and Belize, had reaffirmed their diplomatic ties with the democratic island.

She also pointed out that lawmakers from both parties in the United States also expressed solidarity with Taiwan.

Potential Presidential Candidates Offer Competing Narratives 
Some Taiwanese experts say the choice of destinations for Ma and Tsai’s overseas trips represents the two different paths for Taiwan in international politics and the contrast reflects the competition between democracy and autocracy.

Through the visits, the KMT and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) can consolidate their political bases,” said Fang-Yu Chen, a political scientist at Taiwan’s Soochow University, adding that whether independent voters will buy into the narratives presented by each party remains to be seen.

Apart from Tsai and Ma’s high-profile trips to China and the US, potential presidential candidates from each party have also been setting the tone for their own presidential campaigns.

Democracy and Authoritarianism’ Not ‘Peace and War’
William Lai, Taiwan’s current Vice President, was formally named DPP’s presidential candidate on April 12. During his first speech after accepting the nomination, Lai argued that the 2024 presidential election is a choice between “democracy and authoritarianism” rather than “peace and war.”

Former President Ma walked back into the framework of the ‘One China’ principle, whereas President Tsai is on the democratic path,” he said.

These will be the two completely different choices the country will face after 2024, so the 2024 election will decide Taiwan’s direction — on the continuation of a democratic system, the next generation’s happiness, as well as peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Lai added.

Chinese War Games 
Earlier in April, Terry Gou, the founder of Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn, announced his bid for the KMT presidential nomination.

During a press conference, Gou said Taiwan should avoid taking sides in the competition between China and the US.