FLAME University


FLAME in the news

Narrow ‘Victory Gap’ Between Candidates Increases Fear of CCP Interference in Taiwan’s Elections: Expert

www.theepochtimes.com | January 10, 2024

Despite invasion threats, spy balloons, Taiwan’s voters are 'tranquil' ahead of an election that's expected to see a record turnout.

With just days before Taiwan’s voters head for the polls, those tasked with preventing outside interference in the Jan. 13 elections are keeping a close eye on China. Hawkish operations by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are a leading cause of concern.

Prof. Roger Chi-feng Liu is the faculty of International Studies at FLAME University. He is also a correspondent research fellow with the Center for Globalization and Peace Research at Taiwan’s Soochow University. He’s also a research fellow with the Center for Southeast Asia Studies and has written extensively on Asian affairs. Speaking with The Epoch Times on Jan. 8, Mr. Liu said that as the elections loom, the biggest cause for concern is the CCP’s attempt to manipulate the narrow victory gap between candidates.

"When the gap between the first pair and the second pair is really close, there lies much space for manipulation. I think what we care about is [what] the tactics of the CCP will do to influence the Taiwanese election," Mr. Liu said.

According to three surveys in recent days, Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Lai Ching-te—also known as William Lai—and his vice presidential candidate, Hsiao Bi-khim, lead the polls by a narrow margin. Behind them are the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate and incumbent New Taipei mayor, Hou Yu-ih, and his vice presidential candidate, Jaw Shaw-kong.

Coming in third is Taiwan People’s Party candidate, former surgeon Ko Wen-je, and his running mate, Cynthia Wu, who aim to offer voters "a third choice."

"Well, according to many different evaluations, the gap is really close," Mr. Liu said. "I heard something from inside of the KMT. They evaluate the margin to be 1 percent to 6 percent. So it’s about the gap of 136,500 to 819,000 votes only."

He noted that the upcoming election is expected to see a minimum of more than 13.65 million votes cast.

Taiwan's National Security Bureau is carefully watching for any possible Chinese plot to interfere or change the result of Taiwan's election, "especially now," Mr. Liu said.

Cognitive Warfare, Spy Balloons Aren't Deterring Voters

The entire election process will take about four months: from voting day to the day results are announced to the inauguration of the new government. According to Mr. Liu, there have been warnings that the CCP and China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) may use this period to send strong signals to what he referred to as the "so-called third Taiwan pro-independence forces."

"So we don't know how ... likely it is going to be, but if we just talk about the pre-election period, apparently, the CCP and the PLA are trying to use this to maximize [rumor's] utility to influence the result of the election, to ... persuade the voters in Taiwan to vote for the KMT."

Mr. Hou opposes Taiwan's independence and has avoided expressing a stance on China-related questions during his election campaign. When asked a question about the "one-China" policy at a university forum in June 2023, he dodged the question, citing his inability to manage dicey diplomacy.

"The relationship between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is clear. We don't need to get it confused. ... It is completely based on the constitution of the Republic of China," he said at the time.

On Jan. 9, Mr. Lai told reporters that China is engaging in "unprecedented" levels of interference, ranging from "political and military pressure," to "economic means, cognitive warfare, disinformation, threats, and incentives."

Since last month, Taiwan's Defense Ministry has reported nearly 20 instances of Chinese high-altitude balloons flying over the Taiwan Strait, with some passing over military bases. The ministry stated that it detected three more balloons on Jan. 8.

"If we consider the timing for now, I think [the] balloon is being used as a cheap measure, to send out signals to the Taiwanese voters," Mr. Liu said. China wants to show Taiwanese voters that it has the ability to interfere in Taiwanese airspace, he said.

Balloons are more difficult for defense forces to deal with than traditional aircraft. They're difficult to shoot down because of the high altitude at which they fly. Missile systems don't recognize them as the kind of target they were designed to attack, such as enemy planes. And from a psychological standpoint, they're menacing while not sending a direct threat, as a fighter jet would.

Mr. Liu said that from a practical standpoint, using spy balloons is like killing two birds with one stone. It sends a signal with "a combination of the political tool and the military tool as well, at [a] lower cost."

He said he thinks that despite China's best efforts, Taiwanese voters won't be easily influenced. He said China sympathizers are mainly limited to older generations. The younger generation of Taiwanese voters sees themselves as separate from China.

"They clearly recognize that China and Taiwan are different countries ... we speak the same language, we share the culture, we understand each other by talking. But we are different, because the major difference lies in our political institutions, our democratic system," Mr. Liu said.

He said Taiwanese voters haven't been overly anxious about the events of the next few days.

"I think, relatively so far, six days before the election, I think things are quite tranquil here," Mr. Liu told The Epoch Times. "Many people have bought their ticket to travel from their city of work to their place to vote, including me."

This article includes the valuable insights of Prof. Roger Liu, Faculty of International Studies, FLAME University.

(Source:- https://www.theepochtimes.com/world/narrow-victory-gap-between-candidates-increases-fear-of-ccp-interference-in-taiwans-elections-expert-5562256?welcomeuser=1 )