Taiwan’s Political Evolution:  Third DPP Presidency

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Lai Ching-te has won the presidential elections for the third consecutive time, breaking the Kuomintang’s dominance in Taiwanese politics. The DPP, formed in 1986, has held the position for 23 years, with the first election being Chen Shui-bian in 2000.

The party has become an important force in Taiwan’s political landscape, breaking the KMT’s dominance. The DPP was born through the Tangwai movement, which opposed the KMT’s authoritarian rule and sought more democracy and freedom. Many DPP leaders have been educated in western countries and aspire to make Taiwan a liberal, democratic country.

Initially, the DPP was more overt in its support for Taiwanese independence, but it has since become more pragmatic, focusing on maintaining the status quo, which is as good as independence in all practical terms.The growing strength of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan is a result of increased awareness of the looming China threat among the Taiwanese public.

The public believes it is better to contest Chinese pressure than succumb to it, while the KMT emphasizes that a well-behaved Taiwan wouldn’t face Chinese threats of forceful unification. The Taiwanese people are more convinced that China believes in the “historical inevitability” of unification and will try to unify Taiwan at the earliest opportune time.

They view the way forward as a Taiwanese approach that relies on strengthening military capabilities, broadening diplomatic outreach, and creating more substantive alliances and friendships with the US, Japan, India, and others.

The Taiwanese perceive the DPP as more in line with this approach. China’s growing assertiveness under President Xi Jinping is evident, with China’s negative reaction to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August 2022 and China’s recent war games near Taiwan.

Taiwan’s economic growth rate in 2023 was 1.4%, with disruptions to trade with China creating further challenges. Taiwan’s trade with China accounted for one-fourth of all external trade. Despite this, Taiwan is optimistic about separating economic relations from political contestation and diversifying economic relations.

The New Southbound Policy (NSP) in 2016 has helped Taiwan surpass investments in China for the first time in 2022. Since 2014, the number of Taiwanese employees in China has been steadily decreasing. The country is also focusing on diversifying its economic relations to overcome difficulties.

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