China said “reunification” with Taiwan was still “inevitable” after president-elect William Lai Ching-te won Saturday’s pivotal election on the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.
Lai, from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), won despite warnings from China not to vote for him. He took 40.1 percent of votes cast, according to results from the Central Election Commission.
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“I want to thank the Taiwanese people for writing a new chapter in our democracy,” Lai said in his victory speech. “We are telling the international community that between democracy and authoritarianism, we will stand on the side of democracy.”
In the run-up to the polls, China denounced Lai as a dangerous separatist, said he would be a threat to peace in the region if he won, and called the elections a choice between “peace and war”.
Here are some of the reactions to the pivotal vote:
“Taiwan is China’s Taiwan,” Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson, Chen Binhua, said in a statement carried by state news agency Xinhua, adding that the DPP “cannot represent the mainstream public opinion on the island”.
But he added that the vote “will not impede the inevitable trend of China’s reunification”.
While Taiwan has been self-governed since the 1940s, China still claims the island and its outlying territories.
The vote “will not change the basic landscape and development trend of cross-Strait relations,” Binhua said. Beijing’s stance on “realising national reunification remains consistent, and our determination is as firm as rock.”
China “firmly oppose[s] the separatist activities aimed at ‘Taiwan independence’ as well as foreign interference”, he added.
The United States does “not support” the independence of Taiwan, President Joe Biden said, after being asked by reporters for Washington’s position on Taiwan’s presidential vote.
The Biden administration has feared that the election, transition and new administration would escalate conflict with Beijing.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saluted Lai on his victory and hailed the “robust democratic system and electoral process” of the self-ruled island.
Blinken added that Washington is “committed to maintaining cross-Strait peace and stability, and the peaceful resolution of differences, free from coercion and pressure”.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement that Moscow continued to view Taiwan as an integral part of China.
Moscow has repeatedly shown its support of Beijing’s “One China” policy on the issue of Taiwan.
The EU “welcomed” Taiwan’s presidential election and congratulated all the voters who “participated in this democratic exercise”, a statement said, without mentioning president-elect Lai.
“The EU remains concerned about growing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and opposes any unilateral attempt to change the status quo,” said the statement by a spokesperson for EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell.
“The European Union underlines that peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait are key to regional and global security and prosperity.”
British Foreign Minister David Cameron congratulated Lai and said he hoped Taiwan and China would renew efforts to resolve their differences peacefully.
“The elections today are testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Cameron said in a statement.
“I hope that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will renew efforts to resolve differences peacefully through constructive dialogue, without the threat or use of force or coercion.”
Japan congratulated the smooth implementation of the democratic election and Lai on his victory.
“We expect that the issue surrounding Taiwan will be resolved peacefully through dialogue, thereby contributing to the peace and stability in the region,” it said in a statement, adding that Taiwan was an “extremely crucial partner” with whom Tokyo aimed to “deepen cooperation”.
Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs congratulated the people of Taiwan after the elections, but did not mention Lai.
“Guided by the pillars of democracy, human rights and peace, Canada looks forward to advance its people-to-people, science, trade & investment ties,” the ministry said in a statement on the social media platform X.
Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s minister of foreign affairs, congratulated Lai on his victory.
“Together with the people of Taiwan we celebrate the strength of free and fair democracy,” he said in a post on X.