March 19, 2004

Taiwan Election

It's easy to lose track of other parts of the world with all of the focus on Iraq and أﻟﻘﺎﻋﺪﺓ all the time.

But Taiwan will be having elections on March 20. The contest is between Chen Shui-bian, the pro-indepence incumbent, and Lien Chan, the Nationalist Party challenger.

Chen won four years ago with only 39% of the vote, because the Nationalist Party was divided. It appears that he's had success in driving public sentiment towards a Taiwanese identity instead of a mainland one (see the statistics below).

Meanwhile, China is thought to be flexing it's military muscle on the eve of the election to intimidate the Taiwanese. This posturing has included joint military exercises with France off the coast of Taiwan just four days before the election (the largest ever with a foreign nation), as well as repeated missile tests since January . There is much speculation that the Chinese would attack the island if Chen wins again, largely because of his support for a referendum demanding that China remove its missiles pointed at Taiwan – a referendum seen as a precursor to an independence referendum.

Other than the fact that we've committed to protecting the democracy in Taiwan from mainland encroachment, this is relevant to the US because, by law, we are required to support the Taiwanese military through arms sales, and we have historically (though vaguely) asserted that we would help Taiwan defend itself in the face of Chinese agression. So this could get out of hand quickly.

USA Today provides a surprisingly good summary of the situation, including some interesting statistics:

Watch this space....
Update: As Brad points out in a comment below, Chen and his VP candidate were wounded in a shooting today. They were both released from the hospital after a few hours and the vote will go on on Saturday.

More: I had forgotten about this. But I wonder if the Sino-French excerises were motivated partially by the frigate bribery scandal from January:

Illegal payments linked to a French defense deal with Taiwan signed in 1991 have placed the French government at risk of being ordered to repay up to $600 million in murky commissions, according to a report published on Wednesday.

Posted by richard at March 19, 2004 12:56 AM

Here's a complication: the incumbent President and VP were shot yesterday, but it appears they're all right and want to continue with the election.

Here's another dramatic, violent gesture delivered on the eve of election to draw the focus away from issues (if, in fact, there ever is a focus on issues in voting democracies — as opposed to haircuts). And though I don't necessarily buy the argument of Spanish "appeasement," I do hope we're not seeing a trend of last-ditch disruptions of elections.

Posted by: Brad A. at March 19, 2004 09:41 AM

Conspiracy theory: Both were shot, but neither injured seriously. Analysts say the attacks will help the incumbents due to sympathy. Not enough time before the election to investigate. Think they'd take a minor wound to hold on to power . . .

This theory has no basis in fact (some of you might argue that this does not distinguish this particular post), just thought i'd throw it out there.

Posted by: Mike F. at March 19, 2004 11:41 AM

Fear-mongering, conspiracy-theory-spreading demagogue. Obviously, you've been reading too much Mao from your favorite bookstore – perhaps you're just an agent for the Chairman, operating on my blog to return the island to the workers' paradise on the mainland.

Posted by: richard at March 19, 2004 01:04 PM


Posted by: Mike F. at March 19, 2004 06:51 PM

Remember, you heard it here first . . .

Posted by: Mike F. at March 21, 2004 09:34 AM