Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based journalist.

The Taiwanese election on Saturday, in which Tsai Ing-wen won a second term as president, shows democracy maturing in Taiwan. Political power has now changed hands three times between the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive parties since direct presidential elections began in 1996, with each winner being elected to two four-year terms.

Cross-strait relations played a dominant role in the election. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Tsai said her DPP administration had been “willing to maintain healthy exchanges with China” and, despite “China’s diplomatic pressure and military threats,” her government had kept up “a non-provocative, non-adventurist attitude that has prevented serious conflict from breaking out in the Taiwan Strait.”

Story continues below advertisement

That clearly isn’t the way Beijing sees the situation. A Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, called on the international community to “understand and support the just cause of Chinese people to oppose the secessionist activities for ‘Taiwan independence’ and realize national reunification.”

The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, which sets policies regarding Taiwan, issued a statement saying the Chinese government was willing to “work with its compatriots in Taiwan to promote the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and advance the peaceful reunification of the homeland.”

Neither the Foreign Affairs Ministry nor the Taiwan Affairs Office mentioned Hong Kong in their statements. But Hong Kong was a key factor in the outcome of the presidential election, with the anti-government protests there boosting Ms. Tsai’s stock as concern rose in Taiwan over China’s “one country, two systems” principle, which is also meant to apply to the island.

Ms. Tsai has had a poor relationship with the mainland from the beginning of her presidency because she declined to accept the “one China” position of her predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang. As a result, Beijing cut off its dialogue with Taipei and has put economic, political and military pressure on Taiwan.

The latest Chinese statements suggest Beijing is likely to continue its hardline policy.

But continuing this policy – perhaps even adding to the pressure – is likely to be counterproductive, further alienating the people of Taiwan.

Ms. Tsai’s mainland policy is also bringing her a host of problems – political and economic. Due to geographical, cultural and linguistic bonds, the Chinese mainland is Taiwan’s natural economic partner. But Ms. Tsai is seeking new partners to avoid being dependent on the mainland and thus vulnerable to its pressure.

Story continues below advertisement

It is certainly positive that Beijing’s stated policy remains peaceful reunification, its position since the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping was the paramount leader. Under Chairman Mao Zedong, China vowed to “liberate” Taiwan. However, Mao told Henry Kissinger, U.S. president Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, in 1972 that China could wait 100 years to be reunified with Taiwan.

The policy of reunification through “one country, two systems” formulated under Mr. Deng was first applied to Hong Kong and Macau. Now, China is eager to complete the task by bringing Taiwan into the fold.

But while Hong Kong and Macau were colonies of Britain and Portugal, respectively, Taiwan in 1945 was returned to the Republic of China by Japan and has been governed by Chinese officials since then. There is no foreign government to deal with, only fellow Chinese, from Beijing’s perspective.

After the Communists won the civil war in 1949, the Kuomintang government of President Chiang Kai-shek relocated to Taipei and, for many years, vowed to reunite China by counterattacking the mainland. So both the Communists and the Kuomintang agreed that Taiwan and the mainland were parts of one country. But the latter long ago abandoned that policy and, in any event, is no longer in power.

Now that Taiwan is a democracy, no government can agree to reunification without obtaining the consent of the people. This means Beijing has to win over the hearts and minds of the people of Taiwan. Economic sanctions, military manoeuvres and political pressure are unlikely to achieve this goal. This can only be done by offering carrots, not brandishing sticks.

Last week’s election shows that most Taiwanese have little interest in reunification. Peaceful reunification by definition is a long-term project, and soft power is required.

Story continues below advertisement

This is a good time for Taiwan, too, to reassess its long-term relationship with the mainland. The island cannot change its geographical location. Both Beijing and Taipei should rethink cross-strait issues. Neither side should put its crucial cross-straits policy on autopilot. That course would only lead them into a blind alley.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies