William Lai secured the presidency in a groundbreaking election in Taiwan, prompting confetti to shower over the jubilant crowd during his victory rally at the Democratic Progressive Party's

(DPP) headquarters in Taipei on January 13, 2024.

This landmark election has further solidified Taiwan's divergent path from China, eliciting a swift response from Beijing, which declared in a statement that "Taiwan is part of China." Despite advocating for "peaceful reunification," Beijing has not ruled out the use of force, framing the Taiwan election as a choice between "war and peace."

Tensions escalated in recent months as China increased its military presence around the island, sparking concerns about potential conflict. The election outcome, which saw the victory of the pro-sovereignty DPP led by William Lai, drew the ire of Beijing, as his party has governed Taiwan for the past eight years.

Marking an unprecedented achievement, Lai secured a third consecutive presidential term for the DPP, signaling an irreversible trajectory in his first remarks after opponents conceded. "The country will continue to walk on the right path forward. We will not turn around or look backward," Lai declared in a press conference.

Addressing tens of thousands of supporters in Taipei, Lai portrayed his win as a triumph of democracy and emphasized Taiwan's independence in choosing its president without external influence. In response to allegations of Chinese interference, Lai expressed a preference for exchanges and dialogue over obstructionism and conflict, advocating for peace and stability with Beijing.

While extending an olive branch to China, Lai assured the maintenance of the cross-strait status quo, refraining from seeking independence or unification with China. Despite being labeled a "separatist" and "troublemaker" by Beijing, Lai conveyed his commitment to safeguarding Taiwan from threats posed by China.

The United States, Taiwan's major ally, promptly congratulated Lai on his victory, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken praising the island's robust democratic system. President Joe Biden reiterated the U.S. stance against supporting independence for Taiwan.

As celebrations erupted outside the DPP's headquarters in Taipei, supporters expressed joy and determination to protect their democratic lifestyle. Lai secured 40% of the vote, comfortably surpassing his main opponent from the Kuomintang party. Maverick politician Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People's Party, a newcomer popular with young voters, gained a quarter of the vote.

The concurrent legislative elections resulted in the DPP losing its majority, with the opposition making gains. Analysts suggest that an opposition-dominated legislature, coupled with a DPP president, could lead to a more challenging governance process in Taiwan. Photo by Simon Liu / Office of the President (中華民國總統府), Wikimedia commons.