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China’s Soft-Power Offensive in Taiwan

TOKYO – China’s behavior during the recent presidential election in Taiwan demonstrates that its leaders have learned some lessons, if only the hard way. They have learned that China can have a greater impact on Taiwanese voters through trade and making people feel richer than by threats – even threats to fire missiles – which had been China’s electoral tactics in previous Taiwanese elections, particularly when a pro-independence candidate looked popular enough to win.

Indeed, fearing the popularity of Lee Teng-hui, who ran in the 1996 presidential election on a pro-independence platform, China’s People’s Liberation Army actually fired missiles close to the nearby coast of Keelung. But this saber rattling backfired. Lee won.