In the Jan. 13 presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan, the enduring spirit of democracy prevailed against China’s extensive disinformation campaign and hybrid warfare. Despite facing those unprecedented challenges, Taiwanese voters made the decision to safeguard their hard-won free and democratic way of life with a clear and calm mind. The impressive voter turnouts were 71.86% for the presidential election and 72.08% for the legislative election.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Lai Ching-te and Hsiao Bi-khim, won the election with over 5.58 million votes, constituting 40.05% of the total vote. However, the distribution of seats in the 113-seat Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s parliament, resulted in a balanced political landscape, with the DPP winning 51 seats, the Kuomintang (KMT) claiming 52 seats, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) gaining eight seats, and independents taking the remaining two seats, preventing any single party from holding a majority.

Before and after the elections, China orchestrated a massive disinformation campaign, utilizing misleading news articles, AI-generated fake content, and fake social media accounts. These efforts aimed to influence the election outcome and cast doubt on the validity of the elections. However, Taiwan responded with resilience and innovation, pioneering measures to counteract this digital democracy challenge.

Utilizing the 2019 Anti-Infiltration Law, the Taiwanese government effectively thwarted China’s attempts to spread misinformation and interfere in the elections. Civil society played a crucial role, with voluntary fact-checking collectives, tech-savvy individuals, and grassroots initiatives working tirelessly to address fake news, promote media literacy, and bolster public resilience against external manipulation.

China’s hybrid warfare against Taiwan extends beyond disinformation, military intimidation and economic coercion. Two days after incumbent Vice-President Lai Ching-te was elected as the next president of Taiwan, Nauru, enticed by China, terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan, citing UN Resolution 2758 and the “one China principle.” At this particular time, China’s move was seen as a repudiation of democratic values.

In response, Taiwan, the U.S. and other like-minded countries condemned Nauru’s action. Laura Rosenberger, Chair of American Institute in Taiwan, clarified that UN Resolution 2758 did not determine Taiwan’s status, does not preclude diplomatic relations with Taiwan and does not preclude Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the UN system.

Despite China’s efforts to sabotage Taiwan’s democratic system and sovereignty, Taiwan’s successful conduct of free and fair elections serves as a testament to its mature and vibrant democracy.

As Taiwan faces challenges from China, the experience offers valuable insights into the tactics employed by authoritarian regimes to meddle in democratic elections. With many countries preparing for elections this year, Taiwan’s success is a crucial reminder for democratic partners to stay vigilant and take precautions against interference by China and other authoritarian nations.

Looking ahead, when Taiwan’s new president assumes office on May 20, reinforcing the Taiwan-Canada relationship will be a top priority. Building on the achievements in economics and trade, signing the “Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Arrangement (FIPA)” last year marked a pivotal step in fortifying ties between Taiwan and Canada. By fostering a robust partnership, Taiwan and Canada can deepen economic cooperation and contribute to the stability and resilience of global supply chains.

Taiwan’s peaceful and prosperous elections not only represents a triumph for its people and the broader democratic community but also reaffirms Taiwan’s commitment to countering authoritarianism and safeguarding democratic systems globally. With the completion of its elections, Taiwan stands as a force for good and a reliable partner to the international community and, indeed, a beacon of freedom and democracy.

Jin-Ling Chen is the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Toronto.