Why Taylor Swift is caught up in Taiwan’s presidential election

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Taylor Swift has unexpectedly become a major talking point in the imminent Taiwanese elections after a politician alleged that the pop sensation refused to perform on the self-governed island, fearing a war would break out with China.

Jaw Shaw-kong, a member of the opposition party The Kuomintang (KMT), claimed that as the chair of the Broadcasting Corp of China, he extended an invitation to Swift to hold a concert at the recently inaugurated Taipei Dome.

Swift initially agreed to the performance but later declined due to “geopolitical risks”, Mr Jaw said during a televised debate on Monday.

Taiwan is on edge ahead of the 13 January presidential and parliamentary elections, which China has heavily targeted in state media propaganda as a choice between war and peace.

The island is self-governed and has a democratically-elected administration, but is claimed as a breakaway province by Beijing. Chinese president Xi Jinping pledged again in his New Year’s address to bring about “reunification” with the island – and has previously threatened to do so by force if necessary.

Taiwan's culture ministry has responded to Mr Jaw’s allegations, saying that several high-profile international artists had performed in the southern city of Kaohsiung.

However, the ministry did not directly confirm or deny Mr Jaw's claims about Swift.

Instead, the ministry in a statement cited the past year's performances by Coldplay, the Backstreet Boys and K-Pop band Blackpink as evidence that the island could still attract famous acts to perform there.

"These all serve as the best proof to show that what the KMT vice presidential candidate said was not true,” the statement read.

Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chi-mai on Tuesday said Mr Jaw's claim was "self-defeating" and made in an attempt to manipulate voters.

Swift will kick off her Asia leg of the "Eras Tour" in February with performances in Japan and Singapore, giving both Taiwan and mainland China a miss.

The Independent has reached out to Swift’s representatives for comment.

Taiwan has said it is bracing for both domestic and foreign political manipulation ahead of the 13 January elections, amid increased Chinese military activity around and in the skies above the island.

Beijing, which maintains that the island is part of its territory, has directed its anger toward Lai Ching-te, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate, calling him a separatist and rebuffing his calls for talks with Beijing.

Taiwan's defence ministry on Tuesday said four Chinese balloons flew across the island and near an air base for the first time since such balloons were spotted crossing the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese balloons became a concern for Western democracies after the US shot down what it said was a surveillance balloon from China last February. Beijing has since argued that the balloon was a civilian craft that accidentally drifted astray.

Taiwan on Wednesday said three balloons flew 105 nautical miles, 160 nautical miles and 159 nautical miles respectively to the southwest of Ching Chuan Kang, the location of an important Taiwan air force base. One balloon flew 78 nautical miles northwest of Keelung.

The balloons then disappeared at various points, added the ministry, which has previously said it believed they were mostly for weather monitoring.

It “closely monitors and appropriately responds” to balloons and gathers information about their path for “judgement and analysis,” the ministry said.

Chinese president Xi Jinping last week claimed that China’s “reunification” with Taiwan was “inevitable”.

“The realisation of the complete reunification with the motherland is an inevitable course of development, is righteous and what the people want,” Mr Xi said in his address.