There has been a lot of reporting over the last week about how China is trying to mobilize Taiwanese living in China to return to vote. There are all kinds of tactics. They are offering cheaper tickets (but according to one story, the tickets will cost full price if Tsai wins). They are discriminating among people working for reliably blue companies and not-so-reliably blue companies. They are putting pressure on companies to adjust their Chinese New Year schedule. They are pressuring executives to openly campaign for the KMT. And on and on.
Most of the reporting on this takes one of two angles. Some of it is outraged that China would interfere in Taiwanese elections. Other reports simply want to try to figure out how many votes this will influence.
I have a third thought. This reminds me a lot of the sorts of things the KMT used to do in the authoritarian era. In fact, it looks to me as if the CCP is learning how to rig free and fair elections. That sounds like a paradox, but I do actually mean that. A lot of countries that are not really democracies hold elections, and the regime often rigs these elections in its favor. In the most successful examples, the regime doesn’t have to openly cheat. It can let people vote freely and count all the votes accurately because it has already tilted the playing field in its favor. The masters of this game were the KMT and the Mexican PRI. (The PRI won every presidential election from 1928 to 1994, and it went decades without losing a single senate or gubernatorial race.) Part of me is happy to see the CCP learning how to play the electoral game. Perhaps if they build up enough familiarity and confidence through their experience in local elections, Hong Kong elections, and trying to influence Taiwan elections, they will feel confident enough to try rigging their own elections.