Friday Briefing: Taiwan Prepares to Vote

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World|Friday Briefing: Taiwan Prepares to Vote

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/11/world/taiwan-vote-israel-genocide-asia.html

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Campaign posters on a building in Taipei, as a car and a man on a bicycle pass in the foreground.
Campaign posters in Taipei.Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

Taiwan is heading to the polls tomorrow to elect a new president and legislature. The election will be watched closely by the world for how it will affect the island’s relations with China and the U.S.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has demanded unification, which the island democracy has rejected. The tensions over Taiwan are one of the most divisive issues between Beijing and Washington.

To walk us through what’s at stake in this election, Justin reached out to our colleague Chris Buckley, who is based in Taipei and reports on China and Taiwan.

Why is this election important?

Chris: This election could have important consequences for one of the world’s most difficult and volatile territorial disputes — the future of Taiwan.

The presidential candidates from the two main political parties — the Democratic Progressive Party and the Nationalist Party — both reject the Chinese Communist Party’s framework for unification, called “one country, two systems.” But there are important differences in how they propose to deal with Beijing.

Lai Ching-te, the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate, has promised to keep China at arm’s length. China would most likely step up pressure on Taiwan if he wins. Hou Yu-ih, the Nationalist Party candidate, says he will reduce tensions with China by expanding cross-strait trade and contacts. China would most likely reduce pressure — for a while at least — if he wins, but could also raise expectations of concessions.

What’s the mood on the ground in Taiwan?

My Taiwanese colleagues and friends tell me this election feels less urgent than the ones in 2020 and 2016, even if it could have far-reaching consequences. In those earlier elections, there was more alarm over China’s intentions, especially in 2020, during Beijing’s big political crackdown in Hong Kong.

The other difference is that Taiwanese people are now focused on a range of domestic issues, such as housing and energy and job opportunities. Sure, China still matters a great deal, but voters are saying that they also want their next president to give more attention and money to solving homegrown problems.

What are the possible outcomes, and what would they mean going forward?

Being quite new to Taiwan — just over a year here now — I keep bugging everyone I meet for their best guess on the outcome, and the thing you hear most is that this is likely to be a narrow result.

Whoever wins, the next president will have to work with a legislature where it’s very likely that no party will have a majority. That means that the next president — and for now Lai still seems more likely — is going to face more obstacles in implementing policies.

Is there something else in particular that our readers should know about this issue?

I’d remind readers about the other election this year that matters immensely for Taiwan: the U.S. presidential election. Of course, the outcome of that vote matters for the whole world. But Taiwan depends on the U.S. as its main security backer against China. A second Biden term would probably mean more of the same policies. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee and wins, then there’ll be much more uncertainty about where U.S. policy will go.

For more: Taiwan’s rallies are boisterous and filled with chants of “frozen garlic” — a play on the phrase for “get elected.”


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A hospital in Gaza this week. Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It cited Israeli officials including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who said Israel would impose a complete siege on Gaza because it was fighting “human animals.” Israel, which will present its defense today, said that South Africa was overlooking the atrocities committed by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attacks.

What’s next: Decisions by the court are binding, but there are few means of enforcement. A final ruling could take years.


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Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

On Monday, Iowa will hold its Republican caucuses — the first major test for the candidates vying to run against President Biden. Donald Trump has chosen to skip any events where his comfortable lead could be challenged. His rivals are fighting for second place.

Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, seems to be leading Ron DeSantis, the current governor of Florida. In the New Hampshire primary later this month, Haley is within striking distance of Trump, who attacked her this week with the false claim that she is not eligible to be president because her Indian immigrant parents were not yet citizens when she was born in South Carolina.

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
  • Snow may become even rarer in the Northern Hemisphere as the world continues to warm, a study found.

  • U.S. officials have not properly tracked more than $1 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine, a Pentagon report said.

  • Donald Trump attacked the New York attorney general and insulted the judge on the final day of his civil fraud trial in Manhattan.

  • Iran said it seized an oil tanker off Oman. Last year, the U.S. confiscated Iranian oil from the same vessel, which had been transporting it in violation of U.S. sanctions.

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The extent of damage and casualties from the unrest remains unclear.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • The prime minister of Papua New Guinea declared a two-week state of emergency in the capital and suspended the chief of police after violent protests.

  • The mixed martial arts star Israel Adesanya avoided a conviction in a drunken-driving case in New Zealand, but risked more trouble by mocking a prosecutor.

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Naomi Osaka in Australia last week.Credit…Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Naomi Osaka, the tennis star, gave birth to her first child in July. She spoke with The Athletic about why that inspired her to come back to a sport she has a complicated relationship with and how she’s training for it.

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A TikTok wedding.Credit…Theel Wedding Productions

Brides and grooms in the U.S. are hiring content creators to film, edit and produce Instagram and TikTok posts with music, transitions and candid behind-the-scenes moments, which can be uploaded in real time.

One bride, for example, asked a content creator to film the guests rather than the couple. “We knew that our photographer and videographer would get those special shots,” the bride said. “It was important to us that our family and friends felt like they were part of our wedding.”

Another trend: Really long wedding cakes are in.

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Credit…Kerri Brewer for The New York Times

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