How Taiwan’s Election Fits Into the Island’s Past, and Its Future

Taiwan’s election on Saturday has big implications not only for the 23 million people who live on the island, but also for China’s superpower rivalry with the United States.

Voters chose as their next president Lai Ching-te, the current vice president, who has vowed to continue his party’s policy of protecting the island’s sovereignty. The vote is a rebuke to Beijing’s claim over Taiwan and the growing pressure it has been exerting on the island democracy.

As in all major Taiwanese elections, how to deal with China was a central focus of campaigning. The question has become only more urgent as Beijing has stepped up its military activity near Taiwan, raising the specter of a future conflict that could have implications for the United States.

What is the controversy over Taiwan’s status?

Since 1949, when the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek fled the Chinese mainland for Taiwan after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communist forces, the island’s status and future has been disputed.

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