President-elect Lai Ching-te of Taiwan pledged on Saturday, to protect the self-governed island against “intimidation” from China, following the election victory in which voters disregarded warnings from Beijing.

Taiwan’s president-elect Lai Ching-te vowed Saturday to defend the self-ruled island from “intimidation” from China, after voters defied warnings from Beijing and swept him to election victory.

Lai — branded by Beijing as a threat to peace in the flash point region — secured an unprecedented third consecutive term for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after a raucous campaign. He pitched himself as the defender of Taiwan’s democratic way of life.

Communist China claims democratic Taiwan, separated from the mainland by a 180-kilometer (110-mile) strait, as its own and refuses to rule out using force to bring about “unification”, even if conflict does not appear imminent.

Beijing, which before the poll called Lai a “severe danger” and urged voters to shun him, said Saturday the result would not stop “the inevitable trend of China’s reunification”.

In his victory speech Lai said he would maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, but pledged to defend the island from Chinese belligerence.

With votes from virtually all polling stations counted, the Central Election Commission said Lai won 40.1 percent of votes, ahead of Hou Yu-ih of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on 33.5 percent.

Leading up to Saturday’s poll, authorities have repeatedly warned of interference from China, pointing to paid trips to the mainland for voters and flagging instances of disinformation that painted Lai in a negative light.

After his win, Lai said the island had “successfully resisted efforts from external forces to influence this election”.

Conceding defeat, KMT’s Hou, who had argued for warmer ties with China and accused the DPP of antagonizing Beijing with its stance that Taiwan is “already independent”, urged the country to unite.

Chinese Threats

Located on a key maritime gateway linking the South China Sea to the Pacific Ocean, Taiwan is home to a powerhouse semiconductor industry producing precious microchips — the lifeblood of the global economy powering everything from smartphones and cars to missiles.

China has stepped up military pressure on Taiwan in recent years, periodically stoking worries about a potential invasion.

Chinese warplanes and naval ships probe Taiwan’s defenses almost daily and Beijing has also staged massive war games in recent years — simulating a blockade of the island and sending missiles into its surrounding waters.

The Chinese military said the night before the polls that it would “take all necessary measures to firmly crush ‘Taiwan independence’ attempts of all forms”.

Khalil Wakim, with AFP