His policies rejected by Taiwan voters in a landslide re-election for President Tsai Ing-wen, Chinese President Xi Jinping will most likely continue to tighten the screws on the island, with state media already floating shows of force.
China took centre stage in the campaign after Xi sought in a major speech a year ago to get Taiwan to sign on to the same sort of “one country, two systems” model as Hong Kong.
Tsai immediately rejected the idea. Six months later, Hong Kong erupted in anti-government protests, giving a huge boost to Tsai in her efforts to portray China as an existential threat to Taiwan’s democracy and freedoms.
But rather than recognize that its pressure on Taiwan had failed, Beijing’s immediate reaction to the election was to double down on “one country, two systems” and say it would not change policy.
“This administration of Xi Jinping, but I would say more broadly the DNA of the Communist Party, does not do well to reflect and recalibrate in a way that signals reconciliation, compromise or what they would frame as weakness,” said Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“I thoroughly expect that the conversation right now in Beijing is about turning the screws even more,” Blanchette added.
China says Taiwan is its territory. Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.
Options for increasing pressure post-election include many of the actions China was taking before: stepped up military drills around the island or picking off more of Taiwan’s 15 remaining diplomatic allies. It could also withdraw from a key trade agreement reached a decade ago.