Start Asia Taiwan: Worries of Beijing’s increasing influence after opposition party election victories rise

Taiwan: Worries of Beijing’s increasing influence after opposition party election victories rise

TAIPEI, TAIWAN: A Kuomintang (KMT) party supporter wears a crash helmet full of Taiwanese flags at an ongoing rally to protest the outcome of the islands recent elecions, 25 March 2004. KMT protesters are demanding a ballot re-count to end the crisis that has gripped the island since President Chen Shui-bian's narrow re-election last weekend. AFP PHOTO/Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Taiwan has won the Kuomintang elections in 15 locations, where 80 percent of the island’s population lives. As the party is known for its „one China“ policy, the government now fears an increase in Beijing’s influence on the island.
In Taiwan, concern about Beijing’s potential influence in the 15 cities and counties under the control of the Kuomintang (KMT) is growing after the opposition party achieved great successes in the mayoral and district judicial elections last weekend.

Kuomintang’s main political platform is based on the belief that Taiwan and mainland China are China. The same belief is also shared by Beijing. With the Kuomintang gaining new power across Taiwan, some fear that Beijing could encourage more exchanges between cities or use political similarities to infiltrate the self-governing island.

Among the 15 cities and counties now under the control of the KMT are Kaohsiung, Taichung and Yunlin. Previously, they were traditionally dominated by the ruling pro-independence ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The inhabitants of these 15 places together make up about 80 percent of the total population of the island.

Experts claim that Beijing would have good opportunities to influence the presidential election in 2020 if it could further increase its influence through new KMT-formed local governments.

As a result, the People’s Republic of China could achieve the deselection of President Tsai Ing-wen or further losses for the DPP. This is particularly important for Beijing, as the president and her party have set themselves the goal of achieving an independent and internationally recognized Taiwan.

Political commentators urge the Tsai government to take countermeasures if Beijing works with KMT mayors and district judges so as not to be marginalized.

In the capital of the island, Taipei, power shifts and a stronger influence of Beijing on local governance can also occur, although the KMT candidate lost the race against the acting mayor with only a few thousand votes.

Pro-Taiwan independence activists call for a referendum in front of the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during a demonstration in Taipei on October 20, 2018.
Read more: Taiwanese demonstrations of formal independence increase tensions with China
The Taipei City Government confirmed on Monday that the city will hold an annual forum between Taipei and Shanghai as planned.

The re-elected mayor of Taipei, Ko Wen-je, has invited his Shanghai counterpart Ying Yong, who is also Deputy Secretary of the Commission of the Communist Party of his city, to visit Taipei in December and attend the forum as an official guest.

Ko is an independent politician without party affiliation. Although he enjoyed the support of the DPP in the 2014 elections, in recent years he has seen him courting Beijing. Despite strong criticism and resistance from his main helpers and supporters, he visited Shanghai in 2015 to speak at a forum. In response to the criticism he received in his hometown, Ko spoke of the „widespread politicization of apolitical exchanges.“ He visited Shanghai again last year. Since 2010, Shanghai and Taipei have alternately hosted the annual forum between the two cities.