Taiwan is an island located in the South China Sea. Since the 1600s, Taiwan has been going through administrative changes with China’s Qing dynasty taking over the territory, followed by Japanese control after the first Sino-Japanese war (1895) only to return to Chinese control after defeating Japan in the Second World War. Ultimately, this amounts to a fragmented history that runs through Taiwan. Taiwan “has for all practical purposes been independent since 1950, but which China regards as a rebel region that must be reunited with the mainland - by force if necessary” (BBC). Nonetheless, this independence reflects Chinese influence in Taiwan democratic system with the presence of “the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist Party” (CNN). It is until the year 2000 that voters put the Democratic Progressive Party in power, thus ending five decades of Nationalist rule.
Within this basic context, we can frame the Taiwanese situation – namely that Tsai Ing-wen’s presidency is placed within international and national challenges. For one, she acknowledges the difficult relationships with Beijing – on this, she states that both sides “"have a responsibility to do their utmost to find mutually acceptable ways to interact ... and ensure no provocation and no surprises" (CNN). Indeed, a response is demanded from both Beijing and Taipei, as under previous Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, the nationalist party forged closer ties with China during his two four-year terms.
Amongst this administrative change, Tsai Ing-wen’s goals for Taiwan aim to bring radical changes to the country – this has been pushed by the ideals of younger generation seeking to break away from Chinese influence. This is most clearly reflected by “the Sunflower Movement” of 2014, where “hundreds of students occupied the parliament in the largest show of anti-Chinese sentiment on the island for years” (BBC).
Amongst the changes, the advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights and defence Aboriginal concerns in Taiwan mark some of the more radical changes reflected by this new leadership. And in a more lighthearted manner, Tsai’s two cats, Think Think and Ah Tsai, helped her reach younger audiences – jokes and fun aside, even such tactics reflect a new mentality over the practice of Taiwanese politics.
Thus, in terms of Taiwan, LGBTQ+, and Aboriginal issues, we can at least say that to this degree, the Taiwanese election is concerned with identity. It is by way of political power that identity becomes the battleground for contestation between distinct factions aiming for distinct projects. If we ask the question, “What is Taiwan?” Whatever answer we give ultimately projects a notion of who composes the country, what the country aims at, and what the country considers to be of value. Two distinct answers are given by the Nationalist Party and the DPP, which amount to different visions of Taiwan – and accordingly, the voters have chosen what available vision of Taiwan should be next, for such is the nature of democracy.