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A Post-Election Risk Assessment for the Taiwan Strait

On Jan. 13, Taiwan will elect a new government whose decision-making will play an important role in shaping cross-strait dynamics for the next four years. Final polls in early January show the Democratic Progressive Party candidate Lai Ching-te as the favorite, marginally ahead of the Kuomintang candidate Hou You-yi, followed by the Taiwan People’s Party’s Ko Wen-je. 

A Lai win will produce the most tensions in the near term because China sees this scenario as most threatening to its interests. In response, Beijing will likely increase its pressures on Taiwan even further, through a variety of coercive military and economic tools. A second milestone will come on May 20, 2024, when Taiwan’s new leader will give his inauguration speech. If Lai wins, he will not say that China and Taiwan belong to one political entity or “one China” as Beijing demands. In response, Beijing may react with a show of military strength. The level of escalation will depend on Beijing’s calculations, which will in part reflect the interactions and signals sent between Washington, Beijing, and Taipei from election day to inauguration. 

The full article can be read in War on the Rocks.