Taiwan’s Tightrope Has Become a Knife Edge

My home, Taiwan, is a shining example of freedom, democracy and inclusivity. We have one of the world’s most open societies, the highest percentage of female legislators in Asia and a government minister who is transgender. Decades of hard work, smart policies and entrepreneurial mind-sets have led to enviably high standards of living and made us the global heart of the semiconductor industry.

When Taiwan votes in elections on Saturday, I will go to the polls with a real feeling of worry about our future and whether we can preserve and maintain what we’ve achieved.

Taiwan’s accomplishments were made possible in part by decades of stability between China and the United States. But that is rapidly fading away as the two global rivals descend into distrust and competition. Steps being taken by both sides in that deteriorating relationship are threatening Taiwan’s resilience, its ability to innovate and, importantly, the ability of our people to stay united amid this challenge. The real loser in the U.S.-China competition may end up being Taiwan.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for us to navigate between the two countries.

On one side there is China, just 81 miles away from Taiwan at the closest point, and an existential threat to us. China and Taiwan have been politically separated since the Chinese Civil War ended with a Communist victory in 1949 that sent the Kuomintang (K.M.T.) government, which once ruled all of China, fleeing to Taiwan. Like millions of Taiwanese, I grew up under the threat of a Chinese military invasion. In weekly drills during my school years, we practiced seeking shelter under our little wooden desks in case of an attack. That danger has only intensified as China’s military power has grown and President Xi Jinping, intent on unifying Taiwan with the mainland, has steered Beijing away from trying to win Taiwanese hearts and minds toward economic coercion and military threats.

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