Domestic & International Brief – February 2024

President-elect Lai Ching-te (left) and Vice President-elect Hsiao Bi-khim (right) celebrate their win in Taiwan’s January 13 elections at a celebration held outside DPP headquarters in Taipei.


Representative to U.S. Meets With House Speaker  

Taiwan’s representative to the United States Alexander Yui met with U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson on January 9 in Washington, D.C. It was Yui’s first such meeting since assuming his position on December 11.  

Following closed-door discussions, Johnson told reporters that the United States is committed to helping Taiwan’s defense and deterring any military provocations by China. Yui thanked Johnson and the U.S. government for their commitments to enhancing the nation’s security, safeguarding its democratic system, and promoting a sound bilateral economic partnership.  

Progress on Double Taxation Avoidance

The U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means has voted 40-3 to advance the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 to the House floor. The bill, which received wide bipartisan support, includes tax incentives for Taiwan businesses and their employees in the United States, aiming to eliminate double taxation and enhance the United States’ economic competitiveness. Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance has expressed its support for the effort to eliminate double taxation. 

Committee Chairman Jason Smith highlighted the overall bill’s potential to boost U.S. economic growth, support small businesses, and assist low-income households through expanded childcare and housing tax credits. The bill was passed in the full House on January 31 and awaits passage in the Senate before potentially being signed into law by President Biden. 

Congressional Taiwan Caucus Visits Taipei              

A delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Congressional Taiwan Caucus, led by Co-Chairs Ami Bera (D-CA) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), arrived in Taiwan on January 24 for a three-day visit that started with a meeting with AmCham Taiwan leadership. The two were the first U.S. lawmakers to visit Taiwan since its presidential and legislative elections on January 13. 

The delegation expressed strong support for Taiwan, with Bera congratulating Taiwan on its democratic elections and advocating for Taiwan’s right to self-determination amid regional tensions. During a meeting with the delegation, President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized Taiwan’s commitment to enhancing U.S. relations and advancing global democracy and prosperity. Tsai expressed her appreciation for the bipartisan support Taiwan has received in the U.S. Congress, stressing the caucus’s important role in strengthening economic and trade ties. She urged early passage of the double-taxation avoidance legislation. 

Nauru Cuts Ties With Taiwan                       

On January 15, the Republic of Nauru announced it was severing its diplomatic ties with the Republic of China, citing UN Resolution 2758 and the “One-China” principle as reasons for the decision. The Taiwan government subsequently terminated formal relations with the Micronesian island nation.  

Nauru officially switched recognition to China just two days after Taiwan’s national elections. Taiwan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang accused China of taking advantage of recent “political fluctuations” in Nauru to “buy over” the country with financial aid.  

At a press briefing in Taipei, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chair Laura Rosenberger told reporters that the United States was disappointed by Nauru’s decision to cut ties with Taipei. Rosenberger praised Taiwan as a reliable, like-minded, and democratic partner for the United States and said that the U.S. government will continue to support Taiwan’s participation in the international community, consistent with Washington’s one-China policy. Taiwan now maintains diplomatic ties with 11 countries.  

Chinese Balloons Enter Taiwan Airspace

Ahead of Taiwan’s elections, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) accused China of threatening aviation safety and waging psychological warfare on its people. Since December, the MND has reported several instances of Chinese balloons flying over the Taiwan Strait, some of which had been spotted near major air bases. 

On January 21, the MND reported detecting six more Chinese balloons, one of which crossed over Taiwan near its southern tip, while the other five were observed north of the main island.  

Defense Ministry Apologizes for Translation Mishap

Taiwan’s Air Force Combatant Command issued a nationwide alert through the Public Warning System (PWS) for the first time on January 9 following the launch of a satellite rocket by China. The bilingual alert message caused confusion due to a translation discrepancy, as the message referred to the object as a “missile” in English, while the Chinese version correctly identified it as the launch of a “satellite.” 

The rocket, originating from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, deviated from the trajectory forecasted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Instead, it passed over Chenzhou in China’s Hunan Province and moved toward Taiwan. The MND issued a public apology for the error in translation. 

Congressional Taiwan Caucus Co-Chairs Ami Bera (right) and Mario Díaz-Balart (left) met with President Tsai Ing-wen during the first trip made by U.S. lawmakers after the January 13 elections.

DPP’s Lai Ching-te Elected President

Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) retained control of the presidency but lost its parliamentary majority in Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections, held on January 13. The elections marked the first time in Taiwan’s democratic history that a political party has won three consecutive presidential terms.  

DPP candidate and incumbent Vice President Lai Ching-te won with 5.59 million votes (40.05%), together with vice-presidential candidate and former Envoy to the United States Hsiao Bi-khim. Lai and Hsiao will be sworn in on May 20. 

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Hou Yu-ih came in second place, with 4.67 million votes (33.49%), and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je was third with 3.69 million votes (26.46%). At 71.9%, voter turnout was slightly lower than the record of 74.9% set in 2020.  

Voting largely fell along long-established partisan and geographical lines. The DPP secured the majority of votes in all six of Taiwan’s special municipalities, as well as in southern counties. The KMT maintained its dominance in Keelung City in the north, along with its traditional base in the less-populated central and eastern counties and the offshore islands of Kinmen and Matsu. 

DPP Loses Majority in Legislative Yuan

In the legislative elections on January 13, the DPP suffered a loss of 10 seats, finishing with 51 seats and consequently losing its legislative majority. The KMT gained 14 seats, bringing its total to 52, while the relatively new TPP increased its representation from five seats to eight. The New Power Party lost all three of its seats, and two seats were secured by independent candidates. 

This is the first time in Taiwan’s history that no political party has achieved an absolute majority in the Legislative Yuan. The situation positions the smaller TPP as a potential “kingmaker,” as political commentators see it as falling between the DPP and KMT positions depending on the issue at hand. The new legislature was sworn in on February 1. 

In line with the constitutional norm, Premier Chen Chien-jen and his Cabinet submitted their resignations following the elections, but President Tsai asked them to remain in office until the presidential inauguration on May 20 to ensure a smooth transfer of power. Agreeing to Tsai’s request, Premier Chen said the Cabinet would keep working with the new legislature to push forward policies for the benefit of the country and the people.  

International Community Reacts to Elections 

Following the January 13 elections, the U.S. State Department issued a statement congratulating Lai on his victory and the Taiwanese people for parti-cipating in free and fair elections and “demonstrating the strength of their democratic system.”  

Japan’s foreign minister Yoko Kamikawa said in a statement that Japan expects Taiwan will continue to “contribute to the peace and stability in the region.” Other congratulatory messages were issued by Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Lithuania, the Philippines, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.  

Beijing commented that with only 40% of the vote, the DPP “cannot represent the mainstream public opinion.” China also lodged complaints with the United States, Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore over their congratulatory messages.  

Milestone Traffic Safety Act Enacted

The Legislative Yuan on December 2 passed the Road Traffic Safety Basic Act, a comprehensive policy aiming for zero traffic incident-related deaths. The act provides a legal framework for traffic safety policies and budget allocation and mandates the Executive Yuan to compile a central traffic safety report and oversee nationwide efforts.  

The new law also requires local governments to implement and assess traffic safety plans, improve transparency in traffic information, and enhance driver training and vehicle safety standards. Lawmakers hailed it as a milestone in improving Taiwan’s traffic safety record.