Chairman Rabbit on tomorrow's Taiwan election
"The KMT stands a chance," the influential mainland commentator writes, and should that happen, it will lead to "not reunification, but peace."
It would be malpractice not to have something on the election in Taiwan tomorrow. Below is a WeChat blog post today by Ren Yi, better known by his pseudonym Chairman Rabbit 兔主席 [links to his Twitter], a well-connected, influential commentator in China with a significant readership.
[Let me say beforehand I doubt KMT could win tomorrow, and I’m also suspicious of the determination below of Donald Trump’s stance on Taiwan. - Zichen]
【Focus on Taiwan's Election! 】Peace vs. Conflict: Taiwan's Historical Choice
On Jan. 13, 2024, Taiwan will hold its 16th regional election. That's tomorrow. It is a big day for Taiwan. Recently, many Taiwanese have returned home in advance because they understand the significance of this election. It could potentially decide the historical direction of Taiwan which might consequently affect the Chinese mainland, the entire East Asia, Indo-Pacific region, Sino-U.S. relationship, and even the international geopolitical landscape.
However, few friends of mine showed interest in the 2024 Taiwan election and barely discussed it. Many people assume that Lai Ching-te 赖清德, the candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, the green faction) is likely to win, with Hou Yu-ih 侯友宜, the candidate of Kuomintang (KMT, the blue faction) and Ko Wen-je 柯文哲, the candidate of Taiwan People's Party (TPP, the white faction) having little chance. Interest in the election increased slightly when the KMT and the TPP might cooperate in the election but quickly declined again after they failed to unite.
The Change: KMT stands a chance
Recently, a lot has happened, such as the DPP's Luo Chi-cheng's indecent video, the ensuing 41-minute audio conversation between Luo and Tsai on the feng shui of the official residences of Taiwan regional leaders and the DPP internal personnel, the Taiwan military's mistakenly identifying a satellite launched by Chinese mainland as a "missile" and its "national-level alert", the scandal of Lai Ching-te's illegitimate child, and various corruption problems inside DPP which are widely questioned by the public.
Chen Guoxiang, a veteran media personality in Taiwan and the former chairman of the Central News Agency (CNA), recently wrote in the pro-DPP Formosa Magazine. His remarks can be summarized as follows:
Lai Ching-te has "hit the ceiling," and his public support cannot rise; the public's reasonable doubts about the DPP and Lai Ching-te have been deeply rooted in people's minds. Neither the DPP as a whole nor Lai Ching-te' team can remove public doubts.
Internal unity has always been an important factor for the DPP to win over the KMT, but this election has seen unprecedented solidarity within the KMT, while the internal contradictions within the DPP are still unbridged.
There are further uncertainties in the next few days that could affect the election. For example, Terry Gou may show his support for the KMT candidate; or there might be the strategy of "sacrificing the knights to save the queen."
In summary, Chen believes that confronting the DPP's heavy burden of governance, Lai Ching-te is floundering. It would be lucky for the DPP to win narrowly."
This is the assessment of the election situation by a senior media personality in the Green faction.
"Intervention in the Election by the Communist Party of China (CPC)"
It is worth mentioning the "CPC intervention in the election" rhetoric proposed by the DPP or Lai Ching-te. Generally, it means that any information appearing in the election that is unfavorable to the DPP is fabricated. In this way, Luo Chi-cheng's indecent video is "deepfake" and is the embodiment of "CPC intervention in the election". Lai Ching-te himself had to come forward immediately to endorse Luo, accusing the "deepfake" and "CPC intervention in the election." Not only that, the 41-minute audio of Luo and Tsai that was heatedly discussed is also accused of being "fabricated" and "CPC intervention." It seems that "CPC intervention in the election" is an excuse that can explain everything.
But if people look at the video and audio, they will find such eviidence is definitely real. First, they cannot be made with "deepfake" because all have solid content. Second, they cannot be targets of "intervention in the election." As has been analyzed by Chen Guoxiang, to put it most euphemistically, the DPP or Lai Ching-te also cannot remove reasonable doubts from the public. With further analysis, it is more likely that the video and audio are divulged by somebody within the DPP as a result of internal struggles. Lai Ching-te stood out to endorse Luo and used the excuse of "CPC intervention in the election," showing they are unscrupulous in their efforts to protect Luo. Perhaps they truly believe that all problems of the DPP can be covered by external excuses –– as if all Taiwanese people can be convinced with "CPC intervention," which is not too different from calling white black or "call a stag a horse" (a proverbial expression in Chinese, referring to distorted facts). This is seeing themselves as sages like Zhuge Liang (a statesman and strategist in Chinese history) and the public as fools, fundamentally despising the intelligence of the public and having no scruples about political manipulation.
How did the concept of "intervention in the election" come about? It originates from the United States. After Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016 as the Republican Party nominee, the Democratic Party, unwilling to accept it, launched a series of investigations into Russian intervention in the election. In December 2019, the House of Representatives controlled by the Democratic Party voted to impeach Trump, which was overturned by the Senate controlled by the Republican Party in February the next year. This investigation was completely driven by partisan politics, consuming a lot of resources. The public were unhappy with it. On one hand, they thought Congress was not doing what they should have done and was only engaged in politics. But more importantly, Trump's suppoerters believed this was a great insult to them, as they voted for Trump, not because of some poster made by the Russian online trolls from IRA (Internet Research Agency), but because they really supported Trump's policies.
The U.S. presidential election will also be held this year. We can predict that at that time, the U.S. will see a lot of rhetoric concerning Russia, China, and other third-party countries intervening in the election. This practice of blaming external factors to avoid real issues is very harmful to the election. And a distinct characteristic of electoral politics is the unprecedented and nearly endless information war and cognitive war. The abuse of rhetoric like "deepfake" and "intervention in the election" actually opens a black "Pandora's Box," accelerating society's entry into the era of "no truth" and "post-truth," exacerbating cognitive rifts, and shaking the foundation of electoral politics.
Therefore, the DPP is unscrupulous and jockeying for power. Essentially, their acts show no respect for the Taiwanese people and the core values of Taiwan's electoral system.
What can we conclude? The DPP is dropping, and KMT Stands a Chance
The DPP is dropping. After eight years of the DPP in power in Taiwan, it has obviously fallen into a certain "historical cycle" haunting any ruling party. In order to maintain their rule, they have exhausted their tricks and had no scruples. According to natural law, it is the time for political party rotation. If the Taiwanese public is rational, they might already be accpeting this trend.
The KMT stands a chance. The KMT, having been in the opposition for eight years and also under the threst of the TPP's Ko Wen-je, should have realized this truth. The truth is if they do not unite and forge ahead, the party may face death. In this election, the Kuomintang has shown unprecedented unity, and the entire operation is also not bad. The candidate Hou Yu-ih also showed integrity and positive energy, which is worthy of praise. This time, they indeed have a historic opportunity.
Consequently, the final result of the Taiwan election still remains unknown. It is possible for any side to win, but the KMT now seems to have a good chance, and the probability of success may have already exceeded 50%.
Who will be the winner is to be revealed this Saturday.
Why the Next Four Years are Crucial –– the U.S. factor
2024 will be a historic year affecting the future trend of international politics. There has already been the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israel-Hamas war, and there will be Taiwan regional election at the beginning of the year and the U.S. presidential election at the end of the year. The Taiwan election will affect the situation of Taiwan Strait, cross-strait relations, East Asia, Indo-Pacific region, Sino-U.S. relations, and even the whole world; the U.S. presidential election will have the same impact, but from another direction.
This author wrote an article regarding this topic in June 2023, "Taiwan Question: The Probability of Extreme Scenarios," stating that if the White House instigates and there is cooperation among some Taiwanese politicians, a passive or even extreme situation might occur in the Taiwan Strait. The only combination that could lead to such an extreme situation is the "Trump-Lai pair," that is, the scenario where Trump is elected as the president, and Lai Ching-te represeting the DPP becomes the leader of Taiwan. When writing the article, the author estimated that Trump's chance of being elected in the 2024 U.S. election was 40-45%, and Lai's winning rate was estimated to be over 50%, or 50-55%. According to the current situation, the probability of election results needs to be adjusted. Trump's chance may exceed 50% while Lai's chance shhould be slightly adjusted downwards, capped at 50%. But no matter how the rates are adjusted, it will never be changed that the basic assumption that the "Trump-Lai pair" is the most unfavorable U.S.-Taiwan political combination for the Taiwan Strait situation in the coming period.
Since Trump's policies have already been analyzed before, the author won't repeat here. Two points need to be emphasized:
First, Trump is a "Game Changer."
Unlike previous U.S. Administrations' practices which sought to maintain the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, Trump has various motivations to alter this status quo. His motives primarily revolve around suppressing China to boost U.S. political and economic stature, deflecting U.S. domestic issues, and cementing his legacy as a "great president" akin to Reagan or Roosevelt. In his potential final tenure, Trump would act without scruples and normalize behavior like instigating among Taiwanese politicians, recklessly crossing red lines, and extreme pressure tactics to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. This could challenge rules and baselines, ranging from the three China-U.S. joint communiqués to Taiwan's constitutional amendments or referendums.
Evidently, any action by Trump requires Taiwan's collaboration and response. Who is Trump's or America's best, yet most dangerous, friend? Undoubtedly, it's the DPP's Lai Ching-te. Under the "Trump-Lai" combination, Taiwan would fully commit itself as a pawn in America's strategy against China – and even a vanguard.
Second, Trump is a unique, irreproducible MAGA politician.
A question of interest is whether every MAGA ("Make America Great Again") right-wing populist politician would follow Trump's policies, especially in instigating changes in the Taiwan Strait.
Personal view: No, Trump is unique. Republican primary candidates like Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, and promising figures like J.D. Vance, Ohio Senator, all bear MAGA characteristics. Despite adhering to the anti-China stance, viewing China as America's biggest international threat and challenge, the MAGA group is more driven by isolationism or non-interventionism, which suggests the U.S. should focus more on domestic affairs (starting with the southern border) and less on foreign matters, like something relating to Taiwan. Trump's difference lies in his personal political obsessions with China, his disregard for rules, his pride in challenging and breaking norms, and his deep concern for historical legacy. Thus, he is motivated to use and even overextend his political resources to achieve his goals. This is not limited to China but to other U.S. foreign affairs. Currently, no other Republican MAGA politicians show this trend or possess the capability to lead or mislead U.S. public opinion.
From this perspective, Trump represents only himself, not the majority of U.S. politics, nor the entire Republican MAGA group. The focus should be on the risks posed by Trump's winning the election over the next four years.
Why the Next Four Years Are Crucial –– the KMT
If the KMT wins Taiwan's regional elections and returns to power, we can reasonably expect:
The KMT government will not comply with U.S. provocations, red-line crossings, or pressures to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.
The KMT will not allow Taiwan to become a pawn in the U.S. overall strategy and alliance against China.
Despite the differences with the Chinese mainland in ideological and political system, the KMT will avoid meaningless ideological disputes (including the U.S. "democracy" vs "autocracy" and capitalism vs communism narratives), and pragmatically engage and cooperate with the mainland.
The KMT will lean Taiwan more towards the Chinese mainland in the historical balance of power between China and the U.S.
The cross-strait economic and trade environment will be improved significantly. If the DPP aims to decouple from the mainland, the KMT will instead deepen connections with the Chinese mainland, ultimately benefiting businesses and people on both sides.
Normalization of cross-strait tourism, with more mainland tourists visiting Taiwan and more Taiwanese tourists visiting the mainland. Both will understand each other more.
Increased cultural exchanges, including more mainland films like Chang An introduced to Taiwan, helping Taiwanese people understand Chinese civilization and cultural heritage that they should have learned.
Chinese mainland and Taiwan will develop more exchange and cooperation initiatives, building more consensus rather than undermining it to create obstacles to communication.
If the KMT wins, it should focus on local livelihood, return to fundamental problems, and improve governance. Simultaneously, it should nurture youngsters and grassroots organizations for sustainable leadership.
If the KMT's Hou Yu-ih is elected, he could be in office for four years which is long enough for him to do something; if he performs well, he could be re-elected for another four years. Eight years can witness many significant changes, including influencing Taiwanese public sentiment.
The KMT and the CPC are both centennial parties with undeniable ideological differences, but they share commonalities and consensus in the greater cause of the Chinese nation. Amidst a century of major changes, seeking common grounds is more important than focusing on differences. The KMT's return to power would be a key step towards convergence between the two sides - not reunification, but peace, which is exactly a stabilizer, shock absorber, ballast, and certainty needed in a turbulent international context.
Therefore, let us focus on the upcoming Taiwan regional election and anticipate the historic choice of the Taiwanese people.