TAIPEI - Taiwan is seeing less Chinese interference ahead of its local elections, possibly due to China’s own domestic problems and its efforts to improve its international image, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Wednesday.
Taiwan has accused China - which regards the island as a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary - of repeated efforts to sway the results of its elections, whether by online disinformation campaigns or overt military threats.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Saturday’s elections in Taiwan for mayors and councillors, Mr Wu said China was always a factor when Taiwan voted, but this time around Beijing was meddling less.
“I would describe it as that the Chinese interference in our election is not as prevailing as previous elections,” he said.
The elements not there this time included using cheap air tickets to encourage Taiwanese who live in China to go home to vote for pro-China candidates, or intimidating Taiwan’s people, Mr Wu said.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not respond to a request for comment. It has accused Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party of hyping up the threat from China for political gain.
Mr Wu said he did not definitively know why China was being more hands-off with this election, but it could be because Beijing was trying to get its ties with other countries back on track after being criticised for threats against Taiwan.
China staged military exercises near Taiwan in August after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei. While China’s military activities have continued, they have been at a much reduced scale.
“It is also possible that China is being very busy in dealing with its own domestic problems,” Mr Wu added, referring to issues like China’s Covid-19 lockdowns and property market problems.
The DPP has sought to reframe the vote as a way to show China it will not be intimidated and that the world is watching Taiwan defend its democracy.
Mr Wu said the elections were important for China too as Taiwan was a model for democracy in the Chinese-speaking world.
“We are very proud of that and we will continue to serve as an example for China’s future development.” REUTERS