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Three Candidates Compete for Taiwan’s Presidency Amidst Rising China Threats

Taiwan is set to hold its presidential election on Jan. 13, a race that could potentially escalate tensions between the United States and China if the results are taken badly by Beijing.

China has intensified its campaign of intimidation around the island, with increased military aggression in the Taiwan Strait. The outcome of the election will have significant implications for the U.S., which supports Taiwan’s democracy and arms it with weapons, despite acknowledging Beijing’s one-China policy.

The election is expected to revolve around the candidates’ ability to handle Chinese threats and work with the U.S. and other partners to mitigate the risk of war. The election is shaping up to be one of the most divided in Taiwan’s history as a third candidate party challenges the traditionally two-party system.

Lai Ching-te, the Democratic Progressive Party’s candidate, is leading in the polls, despite criticism over wage stagnation and a controversial nuclear power phaseout. Beijing mistrusts the party for its support of Taiwan’s independence and has refused to engage with current President Tsai Ing-wen.

Credit: DepositPhotos

Lai, a former kidney doctor and the party’s vice president, aims to convince voters that Taiwan would be safer under his leadership. He claims that over the past eight years, his party has strengthened ties with the U.S., Japan, and other democracies while resisting Chinese pressure. A victory for Lai would anger China, which accuses him of being more of a “separatist” than Tsai.

However, Lai has distanced himself from his pro-independence views and now advocates for maintaining the status quo without declaring independence. In dealing with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Lai says he is willing to work together for peace in the Taiwan Strait.

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Hou Yu-ih, the candidate for the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party, aims to restore dialogue and strengthen business links with China to ease tensions. As the former mayor of New Taipei City, Hou is known for his efficiency but lacks experience in dealing with China and foreign affairs.

He opposes Taiwanese independence and accepts that the island is part of “one China,” albeit with differing interpretations between Taipei and Beijing.

Hou is the Kuomintang’s first native Taiwanese candidate, which was done to appeal to middle-ground voters. However, traditional Kuomintang supporters have shown less enthusiasm for Hou’s Taiwanese background, prompting him to choose Jaw Shaw-kong as his running mate to shore up support.

Credit: DepositPhotos

Ko Wen-je, the candidate for the Taiwan People’s Party, has emerged as a surprisingly popular contender. As a former trauma surgeon and mayor of Taipei, Ko’s unorthodox approach has resonated with young voters fed up with the traditional political divide. If elected, he promises to reform the electoral system to be more inclusive of other parties.

Ko maintains that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one family and advocates for dialogue with Beijing while emphasizing the need to strengthen Taiwan’s military defense. However, Ko has not taken a clear stance on whether Taiwan is part of “one China,” a precondition for engagement with Beijing.

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The response from China to each candidate’s victory would vary. Analysts predict that a Lai victory would provoke more Chinese aggression due to his perceived pro-independence views. Hou and Ko, on the other hand, would be more favorable for Beijing as they both adopt a friendlier approach to China and are willing to resume talks and trade.

Credit: DepositPhotos

However, experts doubt that China’s military threats around Taiwan would cease even with a thaw in relations. A Hou presidency could potentially “buy time” by calming China through dialogue while also strengthening Taiwan’s defenses. Lai’s supporters fear that closer ties with Beijing could lead to increased Chinese influence in Taiwan’s government.

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Malik is a skilled writer with a passion for news and current events. With their keen eye for detail, they provide insightful perspectives on the latest happenings. Stay informed and engaged!