Hudson Institute

Taiwan: After-Election Report

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter carries a Taiwan flag during National Day celebrations in Taipei on October 10, 2021. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter carries a Taiwan flag during National Day celebrations in Taipei on October 10, 2021. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

William Lai (Lai Ching-te) and Bi-Khim Hsiao of Taiwan’s Democratic People’s Party (DPP) won the January 13 election and will be sworn in as president and vice president of the Republic of China, also known as Taiwan, in May. Lai and Hsiao are expected to continue many of the current administration’s policies, including an America-forward foreign policy, as Beijing maintains its hostile position toward Taiwan and the DPP. Despite the party continuity in Taiwan’s presidential office, the ruling DPP will have to work with opposition parties to pass legislation in Taiwan’s legislature for the next four years. Regardless of Taiwan’s internal politics, the international community has expressed considerable support for the democratic success of Taiwan’s election—for example, Hudson President and CEO John Walters sent a letter of congratulations.

Below are some key takeaways from the election results. To learn more about Taiwan’s election, join Hudson on January 23, 2024, at 9:00 a.m. for a public event titled “A Look at Taiwan’s Election Results.”

1. Party continuity in the presidential office. William Lai and Bi-khim Hsiao of the DPP have won Taiwan’s election and will become its next president and vice president, respectively. Roughly 13.95 million people, or 71.4 percent of registered voters, turned out for the election. The Lai-Hsiao ticket won with 40.1 percent of the vote. Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT) finished with 33.5 percent, and Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan’s People Party (TPP) tallied 26.5 percent. This will be the DPP’s third consecutive term in the president’s office, following President Tsai Ing-wen’s two terms. The Lai-Hsiao ticket is the first time a party has broken Taiwan’s “eight-year curse.” No political party has previously held the president’s office for more than two consecutive terms.

2. Plurality in the Legislative Yuan. Despite winning the president’s office, the DPP lost 10 seats in Taiwan’s 113-member legislative body, the Legislative Yuan (LY). When the next legislative term begins, the KMT will have a plurality, having gained 14 seats for a total of 52. The DPP will have the second largest number of seats with 51, and the TPP will have the third most with eight. Therefore, the DPP and KMT will have to work more closely with the TPP and Taiwan’s two independent legislators to create a majority. While the KMT’s plurality may slow down some of the Lai administration’s initiatives, it may also offer greater debate and transparency in the LY.

3. International support remains strong. A broad spectrum of international observers have expressed support for the president-elect. The American, Australian, British, and Japanese foreign ministers are just a few of the officials who have congratulated the people of Taiwan on another free and fair election and sent their regards to William Lai. The United States and Japan were among the first countries to send official representation to Taiwan following the election.

4. A relatively quiet Beijing. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s movements around Taiwan remained relatively steady both before and following Taiwan’s election. PLA activity around Taiwan increased 18 months ago, and it is no longer uncommon to see reports of a dozen or more PLA aircraft and naval vessels around Taiwan daily. But with no obvious change in its military posture, Beijing’s response so far appears mostly rhetorical. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office attempted to undermine the election results by saying the DPP does not represent the majority of Taiwanese people—despite Lai winning the popular vote. China’s foreign ministry then condemned the countries that offered their support to Taiwan, including a specific call out of Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

5. Lai’s America-forward foreign policy will need an answer from Washington. During the campaign, Lai said his policies will largely continue those of the Tsai administration, which emphasized engagement with the US. This is one of the reasons Lai asked Bi-Khim Hsiao to run as his vice president; she has been Taiwan’s representative in Washington for the last several years. Much of the Lai administration’s success will depend on how much the president can leverage Taiwan’s relationship with America to bolster Taiwan’s security and create new economic opportunities. Wages, inflation, and housing were some of the other key issues in the most recent election, along with Taipei-Beijing relations. Washington has already shown a willingness to move forward with Taiwan on issues like trade negotiations and a double-tax agreement. But Taiwanese officials have been hoping to sign a bilateral trade agreement with Washington for years.