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China 'carrot and stick' approach expected before Taiwan election: expert

11/30/2023 10:10 PM
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President Tsai Ing-wen (second left) attends a campaign rally to support the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (right), who is seeking reelection, in New Taipei Thursday. CNA photo Nov. 30, 2023
President Tsai Ing-wen (second left) attends a campaign rally to support the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (right), who is seeking reelection, in New Taipei Thursday. CNA photo Nov. 30, 2023

Taipei, Nov. 30 (CNA) China may implement campaigns in the run-up to Taiwan's presidential election in January, including introducing investment incentives and conducting military exercises around the country, to try and sway voters to cast their ballot in a more pro-Beijing direction, an expert warned on Thursday.

In contrast to how official communications with Taiwan were severed after incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) won her first-term victory in 2016, the Chinese Communist Party has continued full steam ahead in its efforts to win the hearts of Taiwanese businessmen, according to Kung Shan-son (龔祥生), a researcher at the Taiwan government-funded think tank Institute for National Defense and Security Research.

Kung highlighted at the forum in Taipei that in September, as Taiwan's election campaign intensified, China announced a total of 22 new policies aimed at facilitating the creation of a "demonstration zone" in coastal Fujian Province to facilitate cross-strait economic collaboration.

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On the military front, China has in the past hesitated to employ military pressure in the run-up to Taiwan's major elections, fearing that such aggressiveness could cause Taiwanese to vote in an anti-Beijing manner, he said.

However, there may be less incentive for China to exercise restraint this year, as voters are more set on which way they are going to vote, which could leave less room for Beijing's 'carrot' approach to sway a meaningful number of voters, he argued.

The scholar added that the CCP may also not be laser-focused on working towards one "particular political party" being elected, as it traditionally has been, although he did not mention which party he was referencing.

The Kuomintang (KMT) presidential nominee, Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜), who leans more China-friendly, has trailed the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nominee Lai Ching-te (賴清德) and Taiwan People's Party candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) in polls for months.

Taiwan People's Party Chairman Ko Wen-je (center) meets with local opinion leaders in Miaoli County Thursday. CNA photo Nov. 30, 2023
Taiwan People's Party Chairman Ko Wen-je (center) meets with local opinion leaders in Miaoli County Thursday. CNA photo Nov. 30, 2023
KMT vice presidential candidate Jaw Shau-kong (front, right) attends a charity event organized by Taiwan-based Broadcasting Corporation of China, which he chairs, in Taipei Thursday. CNA photo Nov. 30, 2023
KMT vice presidential candidate Jaw Shau-kong (front, right) attends a charity event organized by Taiwan-based Broadcasting Corporation of China, which he chairs, in Taipei Thursday. CNA photo Nov. 30, 2023

However, Hou has gained momentum among the KMT base since announcing media personality and opinion leader Jaw Shau-kong (趙少康) as his running mate last week, and while still lagging behind Lai, he is now polling ahead of Ko in most of the polls released this week.

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In addition to military exercises around Taiwan, the CCP could employ coercive economic and trade policies as tools of intimidation in the lead-up to the Jan. 13 elections, with the aim of influencing Taiwanese voters, Kung said.

These might include measures similar to the banning of Taiwanese mangoes in August, he added.

The Taiwanese government labeled the ban on the fruit as "meddling in the presidential election," while China attributed the move to the discovery of agricultural pests in recent shipments.

The CCP may, at the right time, lift the ban in a bid to showcase "goodwill" towards Taiwan, the expert said.

Aug. 21: China suspends imports of mangoes from Taiwan

However, the effectiveness of the "carrot and stick" strategy may not meet the CCP's expectations, as Taiwanese voters are accustomed to such approaches before elections, Kung noted.

Furthermore, given the downturn in China's economy, investment incentives may also not yield anticipated results, he added.

(By Chung Yu-chen)

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