The candidate from the ruling party, Lai Ching-te, also known as William Lai, emerged victorious in the presidential election despite China labeling him a “war instigator.” Seen as a savior of democracy in Taiwan, Lai’s win holds significance for the future relations between Taiwan and China.
Here’s a closer look at William Lai, the President-elect of Taiwan, who is regarded unfavorably by China.
1. Strong Anti-China Stance
William Lai Ching-te, representing the Progressive Democratic Party, contested against two opponents, Hou from the KMT, and former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People’s Party. Known for his pro-democracy stance, Lai firmly opposes China’s influence.
2. Embracing Taiwan’s Distinct Identity
Lai’s Progressive Democratic Party openly rejects China’s territorial claims and promotes a distinct Taiwanese identity. During the presidential campaign, Lai emphasized not seeking independence but maintaining Taiwan’s sovereignty as the Republic of China.
3. Strengthening Ties with the US
Throughout the election, Lai, also known as William, pledged to collaborate with the United States to bolster Taiwan’s defense amidst escalating military tensions with China.
4. Advocating for Taiwan’s Independence
Before his recent presidential victory, Lai served as Taiwan’s Vice President since 2020. Initially describing himself as a pragmatic advocate for Taiwan’s independence, he later softened his stance towards China.
5. Branded as a Threat by China
China perceives William as a separatist and views his election as a potential source of conflict. The Progressive Democratic Party’s consecutive win would deal a significant blow to Beijing, which considers Taiwan a separatist region.
6. Esteemed Doctor with a Compassionate Approach
Born in 1959 in New Taipei City, Lai Ching-te’s medical background and upbringing have shaped his empathetic governance style. Graduating with a B.S. from National Taiwan University, Dr. Lai pursued further studies at Harvard University, making him a rare Taiwanese doctor with expertise in rehabilitation, clinical care, and public health.
7. Transition from Medicine to Politics
Amid the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, Lai shifted from a successful medical career to pursue democracy in politics. Elected to the Legislative Yuan in 1998, he showcased dynamic leadership in social welfare while addressing numerous local issues.
8. Mayorship and Public Trust
Becoming the first mayor of the merged Tainan City in 2010, Lai earned a reputation for honest, diligent, and efficient governance, known as the Tainan New Compact. His 2014 re-election witnessed an impressive 72.9% vote share, the highest in Tainan’s history since the lifting of martial law in 1987.