The ruling-party candidate strongly opposed by China wins Taiwan’s presidential election

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Ruling-party candidate Lai Ching-te emerged victorious in Taiwan’s presidential election on Saturday, a result that will determine the trajectory of the self-ruled democracy’s contentious relations with China over the next four years.

China had called the poll a choice between war and peace. Beijing strongly opposes Lai, the current vice president who abandoned his medical career to pursue politics from the grassroots to the presidency.


At stake is peace, social stability and prosperity on the island, 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the coast of China, which Beijing claims as its own and to be retaken by force if necessary. China is run by the Communist Party, which allows no political opposition.

While domestic issues such as the sluggish economy and expensive housing also featured prominently in the campaign, Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party’s appeal to self-determination, social justice and rejection of China’s threats ultimately won out. It’s the first time a single party has led Taiwan for three consecutive four-year presidential terms since the first open presidential election in 1996.

At a post-election news conference, Lai thanked the Taiwanese electorate for “writing a new chapter in our democracy. We have shown the world how much we cherish our democracy. This is our unwavering commitment.”

He added: “Taiwan will continue to walk side by side with democracies from around the world … through our actions. The Taiwanese people have successfully resisted efforts from external forces to influence this election.”

Lai supporter Hsieh Hsin-chou, a 57-year-old physical therapist, said he was “very proud” of the election result.

“We choose our own president in Taiwan. We are a country. We are a country. We are a light of the world. We love freedom. We love democracy. We (are) supposed to choose our new president,” Hsieh said.

Lai and incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen reject China’s sovereignty claims over Taiwan, a former Japanese colony that split from the Chinese mainland amid civil war in 1949.

They have, however, offered to speak with Beijing, which has repeatedly refused to hold talks and called them separatists.

Beijing was believed to have favored the candidate from the more China-friendly Nationalist party, also known as Kuomintang, or KMT. Its candidate, Hou Yu-ih, also had promised to restart talks with China while bolstering national defense. He had vowed not to move toward unifying the two sides of the Taiwan Strait if elected.

In his concession speech, Hou apologized for “not working hard enough” to regain power for the KMT, which ran Taiwan under martial law for nearly four decades before democratic reforms in the 1980s.

“I let everyone down. I am here to express my sincerest apologies, I’m sorry,” Hou said in front of an audience whose numbers fell well short of expectations.

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