Is China's stance on Hong Kong reverberating in the ongoing Taiwanese election campaign?
I ask that question because if you look back to this spring, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has moved from an enormous polling deficit to a modest lead over her more China-sympathetic opponent, Han Kuo-yu. Previously, she had trailed Han by more than 20 points in some polls, but beginning in May Tsai began to pull even and even ahead in some of them.
The election isn't until January 2020 and business owner Terry Gou might yet enter the race, so things could easily change again before then. Still, Tsai's reversal in fortunes, timed pretty well with the controversy over Hong Kong, is striking.
So we have to ask, is Hong Kong affecting voter attitudes?
Tsai has certainly made a sustained effort in recent weeks to portray Hong Kong as a warning as to the limits of Chinese beneficence. Beijing's strategy toward Taiwan has been one of offering reunification on the basis of "one country, two systems," but its conduct in Hong Kong flies in the face of that pretense. In contrast to the Beijing-offered-story of ample room for mutual compromise, events in Hong Kong suggest that China will seek maximal control in minimal time. The Taiwanese, accustomed to living in freedom, aren't terribly keen on becoming puppets to Xi Jinping's empire. As president, Tsai is also aware of the inherent security challenge that China poses to Taiwan and those that attempt to assist it. She has good reason to be skeptical of Xi's pledges of friendship.
Buckle up for another exciting 2020 election.