China watches as Taiwan chooses

On Saturday, voters in Taiwan's presidential and parliamentary elections will choose between the Democratic People's Party (DPP), which is pro-independence and openly critical of China, and the Kuomintang (KMT), which argues for engagement with the mainland.

Of course, China isn't the only issue riling Taiwan's voters. Pocketbook issues matter here as elsewhere. But months of unrest in Hong Kong have riveted and appalled Taiwan. Some there see Hong Kong's protests and violence as evidence of the dangers of confrontation with Beijing. But many others see a concerted effort by China to stifle freedoms of speech and assembly—and a warning that closer ties with Beijing are therefore dangerous.


Taiwan's voters can hear China's President Xi Jinping's calls for Taiwan to join Hong Kong and Macau in a "one country, two systems" reunification with the mainland, a formula opposed by 89 percent of Taiwanese respondents in a poll conducted three months ago. And they can see the Shandong, China's new aircraft carrier, gliding ominously through the Taiwan Strait.

Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP will probably win re-election as president. The more interesting question is whether her party can hold onto its parliamentary majority. If it does, we can expect tough talk toward Beijing to continue. If the KMT wins a majority, tensions with China will cool as Taiwan slides into legislative gridlock.

China's leaders will be watching closely. There's nothing new about Chinese scrutiny of Taiwan's elections, but after months of global media coverage of Hong Kong's massive protests, a resounding win for pro-independence candidates in Hong Kong's local elections two months ago, intense international criticism of the imprisonment of Muslims in "re-education camps" in China's Xinjiang province, and an ongoing trade war with the United States that has weighed heavily on China's already slowing economy, President Xi is in no mood for hostile rhetoric from Taiwan.

If the DPP keeps control of both the presidency and parliament, Xi may use a variety of means—trade, investment, and perhaps even military—to gradually dial up pressure on Taiwan. If that happens, look for a reflexive response from Washington in support of Taiwan.

That would be one more source of friction in a relationship already headed in a dangerous direction.

The world is at a turning point. Help shape our future by taking this one-minute survey from the United Nations. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN is capturing people's priorities for the future, and crowdsourcing solutions to global challenges. The results will shape the UN's work to recover better from COVID-19, and ensure its plans reflect the views of the global public. Take the survey here.

As the coronavirus pandemic has plunged much of the world economy into turmoil, you've probably heard a lot about what might happen to "supply chains," the vast networks of manufacturing and shipping that help create and deliver all those plastic toys, iPhones, cars, pills, pants, yogurt, and N95 face-masks you've been waiting on.

The future of global supply chains is an especially important question for China, the world's manufacturing powerhouse. Some countries and companies now worry about relying too much on any single supplier for consumer and medical goods, let alone one where the government hid the first evidence of what became a global pandemic and sometimes enforces trade and investment rules in seemingly arbitrary ways. The US-China trade war — and the vulnerabilities it reveals for manufacturers — certainly don't help.

More Show less

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Got through the Fourth of July. Pretty rough one for 2020 here in the United States. Still in the thick of it as we see caseload exploding in the United States. But really, the virus is all about developing markets right now. Poor countries around the world very soon, with the exception of the US and the UK, all of the top 10 countries around the world in terms of coronavirus caseload will be poorer countries. Let's keep in mind, these are countries that test a lot less, which means the actual numbers, in the United States the experts are saying probable likelihood of total cases is about 10x what we've actually seen in the US, in emerging markets and most of them, it's more like between 20 and 100. In other words, this is really where the virus now is.

More Show less

Many countries around the world — mostly democracies in the Americas, Asia, and Europe — have condemned China's recent move to implement a draconian new security law for Hong Kong that in effect ends the autonomy granted to the territory when it reverted from British control to Chinese rule in 1997. However, last week 52 countries expressed support for China's decision at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Most of these countries either owe China a lot of money or are relatively authoritarian regimes themselves — but not all of them. Here's a look at the China-debt exposure and freedom rankings of the countries that took Beijing's side on the new Hong Kong law.

0: The trial in the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi opened in a Turkish court on Friday, but 0 of the 20 Saudi agents accused of the gruesome murder were actually in the courtroom. Saudi Arabia says its own closed-door trial over the slaying was sufficient, and has so far refused to extradite the suspects to Turkey, where Khashoggi was killed.

More Show less