The elections in Taiwan in January promise to be one of the region’s most consequential polls in recent decades. With Beijing increasingly vocal about using force to unify the island with China, voters face a choice between a president determined to resist Beijing and an opponent struggling to articulate an alternative. The polls on the self-governing island, which has a pivotal role in high-tech global value chains, are also taking place in the shadow of protests in Hong Kong and growing US–China tensions. In the lead-up, Beijing has been taking a leaf out of the Russian playbook by overtly and covertly influencing Taiwan’s local media and community groups.
The Lowy Institute hosted a panel discussion about Taiwan’s upcoming elections, the implications for cross-straits relations and Taiwan’s future.
Thomas J. Christensen is Professor of Public and International Affairs and Director of the China and the World Program at Columbia University and previously handled China and Taiwan in the US State Department.
Natasha Kassam is a Research Fellow in the Diplomacy and Public Opinion Program at the Lowy Institute and a former Australian diplomat in Beijing.
Dr Roger Lee Huang is a Lecturer at Macquarie University. His research includes the history of Taiwan–China relations and he has worked for Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party.
The event was chaired by Richard McGregor, Lowy Institute Senior Fellow and award-winning author of The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers and the recent Lowy Institute Paper Xi Jinping: The Backlash.
Thomas J. Christensen is Professor of Public and International Affairs and Director of the China and the World Program at Columbia University. He arrived in 2018 from Princeton University where he was William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War, Director of the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, and faculty director of the Masters of Public Policy Program and the Truman Scholars Program. From 2006-2008 he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs with responsibility for relations with China, Taiwan, and Mongolia. His research and teaching focus on China’s foreign relations, the international relations of East Asia, and international security. His most recent book, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (W.W. Norton) was an editors’ choice at the New York Times Book Review, a “Book of the Week” on CNN”s Fareed Zakaria GPS, and the Arthur Ross Book Award Silver Medalist for 2016 at the Council on Foreign Relations. Professor Christensen has also taught at Cornell University and MIT. He received his B.A. with honors in History from Haverford College, M.A. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, and Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University. He has served on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, as co-editor of the International History and Politics series at Princeton University Press, and as a member of the Academic Advisory Committee for the Schwarzman Scholars Program. He is currently the Chair of the Editorial Board of the Nancy B. Tucker and Warren I. Cohen Book Series on the United States in Asia at Columbia University Press. Professor Christensen is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Non-Resident Senior Scholar at the Brookings Institution. He was presented with a Distinguished Public Service Award by the United States Department of State.