China ‘aims’ to influence Taiwan’s polls

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Using military threats, diplomatic pressure, fake news and financial inducements for politicians, China is being accused of deploying a broad strategy to influence voters in Taiwan’s elections to pick candidates who favor unification.

China’s ultimate goal is to take control of the self-governing island democracy, whose high-tech economy supplies key components for computers, cellphones and other electronic devices and ships much of the world’s goods out from the Taiwan Strait. Beijing has long insisted Taiwan is part of China and must be regained, by military force if necessary, regardless of the views of the island’s people.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu says China’s “global objective is that they want to use Taiwan as a test ground. If they are able to successfully shape the results of the Taiwan elections, they will try to apply their tactics on other countries.”

China has been sending warships and fighter jets near Taiwan on a near-daily basis in recent years, hoping to intimidate the island’s 23 million people and wear down its military, which relies heavily on support from the United States. China has described Saturday’s elections as a choice between war and peace.

Suspicious baloons

While the numbers of such missions have dropped off slightly in recent days, Taiwan has reported a number of suspicious balloons traveling over the island from China. The Defense Ministry also sent out an air raid alert via cell phones about a Chinese rocket launch Tuesday that it later amended to describe as the placement of a satellite into space but on an “abnormal trajectory.” It said the alert was justified by the potential threat to civilians on the ground in Taiwan.

Previous efforts to intimidate Taiwanese voters with missile launches and direct threats were largely seen as backfiring after the election of China critics in 1996 and 2000. China has also restricted imports from Taiwan and invited local leaders on all-expenses-paid visits aimed at persuading them to press colleagues to support pro-China candidates in the elections for the island’s president and 113-member legislature. Cases have been opened against dozens of ward officials for accepting such gifts in violation of Taiwanese law.

China in general refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of Taiwan’s political institutions in keeping with the Communist Party’s insistence that the democracy does not exist.

In line with that policy, China has not commented on Taiwan’s upcoming elections.

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