(CTN News) – The Russian and Chinese governments will try to sway pivotal elections in 2024 using their political and economic clout. In Taiwan’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections on January 13, Beijing is attempting to thwart the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) dominance.
At the same time, Moscow is trying to bolster Donald Trump’s candidacy for president in the US election on November 5. Constitutional democracies have challenges when they respond to efforts by autocracies to influence their elections.
The Chinese Capital Is Trying to Influence Taiwan’s Election
An official from China has said that the Taiwan problem is at the “core of the core interests of China.” Making sure that William Lai, the DPP presidential candidate, loses the January 2024 election in Taiwan is one of Beijing’s top policy objectives.
Because of the DPP’s anti-authoritarian leanings, its promotion of Taiwanese language and identity, and the CCP’s belief that further DPP victories will lessen the likelihood of unification on Beijing’s terms, the CCP has strong misgivings of the DPP.
The DPP has long been hated by the CCP. In the run-up to the 2004 elections in Taiwan, the president of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Chen Shui-bian, caused a stir in Beijing and prompted the US to warn that it would not back a change in the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.
After facing criticism from Washington, Chen weakened the referendum questions. However, due to the opposition’s boycott, the vote was never able to reach a quorum.
Although the DPP’s top officials have softened their stance and are no longer advocating for “de jure” independence, they are still extremely cautious of Beijing and back the current arrangement of “de facto” independence.
Although Beijing had already cut off all communication across the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen pledged in her 2016 inaugural address to remain a steadfast “guardian of peace” and to keep the lines of communication open between the two sides.
Tsai went on to state that she will “maintain both Taiwan’s democracy and the status quo of peace across the Taiwan Strait” in a next address she gave on the Republic of China’s National Day.
William Lai, who is currently serving as vice president and will succeed Tsai, has also pledged to keep the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.
Even though DPP presidential candidate Lai made some unpleasant remarks in 2017 calling himself “a political worker who advocates Taiwan independence,” he has now toned down his stance on the matter.
“I will maintain the cross-strait status quo – which is in the best interests of both the Republic of China, as Taiwan is formally known and the international community.” Lai stated this plainly in an op-ed he wrote for the Wall Street Journal on July 4.
However, the CCP is unsatisfied with the DPP’s measured stance on cross-strait ties because Beijing’s animosity stems from ideological and identity-based divisions rather than policy disagreements.
Despite Tsai’s support for the status quo and appeals for discussion, Beijing canceled cross-strait conversation on the day of Tsai’s inauguration and has yet to resume talks. In an effort to elevate alternative parties and candidates, Beijing is now showing its animosity toward the DPP by interfering with Taiwan’s forthcoming elections.
The level of election meddling from Beijing has varied from covert to outrageous. The Chinese capital is stepping up its social media misinformation tactics targeting the DPP.
The so-called trade barriers erected by Taiwan have been the subject of Beijing’s more overt “investigation,” which has limited trade with the island, lowered living conditions on Taiwan, and damaged the legitimacy of the DPP’s performance in the eyes of the voters.
By scheduling its conclusion for January 12, the day before Taiwan’s presidential election, China’s Commerce Ministry is subtly hinting at the politically charged nature of the inquiry.
The probe has substantial economic ramifications. Both the previous year and this one, 42% and 39% of Taiwan’s exports were to mainland China and Hong Kong, respectively.
According to statistics from the ROC Ministry of Finance, Taiwan’s exports to mainland China and Hong Kong had dropped 19% year-to-date to $139 billion as of November, bringing the share down to 35%.
The semiconductor industry in Taiwan has been hit hard by the trade tensions between China and the US, which is contributing to the decrease.
However, Lai and other DPP candidates are likely to have had their support eroded as a result of China’s trade sanctions, which have disproportionately hit traditional DPP constituencies.
The economic might of Beijing has helped to define the field for the presidential election and strengthen the anti-DPP faction. After Beijing initiated an inquiry into Terry Gou’s company, the millionaire creator of Foxconn, he decided to pull the plug on his extravagant presidential campaign.
The probe was reportedly launched due to worries that Gou’s candidacy may divide the anti-DPP vote and give Lai an advantage, according to Chinese official media sources.
Although it is difficult to verify, Beijing may have also tried to mediate a unity ticket between the two primary opponents of the DPP.
The appropriate or appropriate response to Beijing’s overt meddling in Taiwan’s elections remains unclear to Washington and Brussels.
It could be wise to publicly denounce the CCP’s involvement activities while subtly suggesting that their meddling in the elections could lead to the very result Beijing is trying to avoid and strengthen anti-CCP sentiment on the island.
Whatever happens, the election in Taiwan will have major but not existential consequences. The three main presidential contenders from the DPP, the KMT, and the Taiwan People’s Party all seem to share a dedication to the fundamental ideals of constitutional democracy, including upholding pluralism and the rule of law.
Furthermore, while they may express it differently, all three candidates are in favor of maintaining the current situation across the Taiwan Strait. Democracy in Taiwan will endure beyond the next presidential election, despite Beijing’s best efforts to meddle.
Moscow Is Using the U.S. Presidential Election to Try to Destroy Ukraine and Dismantle NATO
The world’s oldest democracy is in grave danger, despite the fact that the issues of electoral meddling in Taiwan are substantial but manageable. Because of Moscow’s complex efforts to meddle in American politics and the economy, the US is on the brink of a number of constitutional issues.
At this point in time, the odds favor Donald Trump, the former president, to succeed Barack Obama as president. In addition to being impeached for inciting rebellion, facing 91 felony charges, and suggesting he will be a “day one dictator,” he has also demanded the repeal of certain sections of the United States Constitution.
On top of that, Trump has hinted at leaving NATO, is bitter about being impeached in 2019 for allegedly blackmailing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and has made scary statements about ending the conflict between Russia and Ukraine by the next day.
As a result, the Russian government will likely back Donald Trump’s bid for reelection for a third time. This is because they fear the anarchy that would ensue under his administration, the harm it would do to the United States’ alliance system and NATO, and the very real possibility that Trump would lead Russian forces to victory in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin’s knack for manipulating Western democracies’ election processes and his knowledge of how to use Russia’s meager resources to support his favorite candidates are on full display in his track record of electoral interference activities.
Nearly twenty years ago, in September 2005, Putin may have inaugurated a gas pipeline ten days before the German elections to bolster the candidacy of then-German Chancellor Gerard Schroder, thus influencing the outcome of the German election.
Putin has persisted in influencing Western political results, particularly in the US, by leveraging Russia’s oil resources. Prior to the 2016 US presidential election, Russia reduced crude oil production, which led to higher consumer prices.
In September 2018, Russia increased production in preparation for the US midterm elections. In October 2022, Russia and OPEC+ drastically reduced production. The decisions Putin made regarding oil production on each occasion were in line with Trump’s political goals.
In the run-up to the 2024 U.S. presidential election, Russia and other oil autocracies will almost certainly reduce output to help Trump’s campaign.
However, Beijing’s tolerance for, or ability to endure, volatility in the oil market is uncertain. As the biggest importer of crude oil, China stands to lose out in the short term if Putin continues to hit the global economy hard in the run-up to the US presidential election.
Moreover, considering all else being equal, international prices could rise if Trump were to reenter the White House and impose “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iran and, perhaps, Venezuela in the medium term. This would exacerbate Beijing’s economic woes by increasing the country’s oil import bill.
Worst case scenario for Beijing: Trump’s tough new sanctions on Iran and Saudi Arabia might motivate either country to seek nuclear weapons, causing significant instability in a region where China imports half of its oil.
It is extremely doubtful that Beijing can manage the extremely volatile “triangle of doom” involving Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, despite its more forceful diplomatic role in the region, which has involved mediating the restoration of diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tehran.
Therefore, although both Moscow and Beijing want to see the Western alliance fractured, Russia wants to see Trump’s campaign bolstered, while China wants to see oil prices remain stable.
Governments with a strong hand in power are trying to influence elections, and they’re succeeding.
Both of the world’s most powerful autocracies are well-positioned to succeed in their interference activities. Even while the DPP seems to have a good chance of winning the presidency, the KMT will almost certainly end up with the majority in the legislature thanks to Beijing’s economic penalties and information attacks on Taiwan.
It also seems like the Kremlin’s backing of Trump will pay out, and maybe even more than that. At the very least, another tight election will do more harm to American democracy.
If the twice-impeached candidate were to become president, it would end NATO, weaken the Ukrainian war effort, and maybe even wipe out constitutional democracy as an alternative to Putin’s and his allies’ populist authoritarian nationalism.
The two capitals are using economic and, more crucially, informational weapons to undermine the electoral chances of their rivals and, in certain instances, bolster those of their chosen candidates.
Liberal democracies are faced with difficult choices in response to these authoritarian influence tactics. How can constitutional democracies let authoritarian regimes meddle in their elections and maybe even appoint their favorite candidates? What can they do in response to these attempts, if any?