In Taiwan’s local elections held on November 24, the Kuomintang (KMT) trounced the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Common in post-election reporting was the idea that cross-strait relations, one of the traditional defining issues in Taiwanese partisan politics, was less of a factor in determining voters’ decisions than in previous years. According to some experts, DPP President Tsai Ing-wen’s inability to combat stagnant wages, reduce unemployment, and enact labor reform were the principal contributors to her party’s “stunning” loss. These commentators have made it a point to distinguish “China issues” from domestic, economic issues in determining the election outcome.
Missing from such arguments, however, is consideration of the underlying and ever-present influence of China on the Taiwanese economy. Although local grievances toward DPP economic policy were the resounding driving force behind the KMT’s victory, Chinese policy cannot escape implication with regard to Taiwan’s ailing economy. Since Tsai’s election in 2016, Beijing has responded to Taipei’s refusal to recognize the 1992 Consensus and the DPP’s pro-independence leanings by choking the island’s economy and exploiting its vulnerabilities and dependence on mainland markets. It is in this way that Beijing, on the local level, indirectly enabled the DPP’s defeat last year.
This article was originally published by The Diplomat on April 12, 2019. Read the full article here.