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Taiwan presidential candidates emphasize peace with China

Pei Chen Pool via Agence France-Presse Tensions with China were at the heart of the Taiwanese presidential campaign. From left, Lai Ching-te (current vice president, Democratic Party), Hou Yu-ih (Kuomintang) and Ko Wen-je (People's Party), during a televised debate on Saturday.

Taiwanese presidential candidates have expressed their desire for peaceful relations with Beijing, which has portrayed the Jan. 13 elections on the self-ruled island as a choice between war and peace, and has escalated harassment of territory that China claims as its own.

Lai Ching-te, the frontrunner and current vice president of the country and member of the ruling Democratic Party, said in a televised debate on Saturday that he was ready to communicate with the government in Beijing, which refused to speak with him or with President Tsai Ing-wen.

Beijing favors the candidate of the more China-friendly nationalist party, known as the Kuomintang, and has accused Mr Lai and Ms Tsai of being “separatists” trying to provoke a Chinese attack against Taiwan.

Taiwan separated from China amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing continues to view the island of 23 million and its high-tech economy as Chinese territory and n stopped increasing its threat to achieve this objective by military force if necessary.

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Tensions with China were at the heart of the presidential campaign.

China has also intensified its military pressure on the island by sending military planes and ships near the island almost daily. Taiwan's Defense Ministry also reported this month that Chinese balloons, which could be used for espionage, were flying nearby.

Differences over Taiwan constitute a major flashpoint in U.S.-China relations. United States relations with the island are governed by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which makes American policy a means of guaranteeing Taiwan the resources necessary for its defense and preventing any unilateral change of status on the part of Taiwan. from Beijing.

Mr. Lai – who leads most polls – has promised to help strengthen Taiwan's defense and economy if elected.

“As long as there is equality and dignity on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s door will always be open,” he argued during the debate. I am willing to conduct exchanges and cooperation with China to improve the well-being of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. »

“The international community has realized the threat that China poses to Taiwan and the international community,” Lai said. In fact, everyone is already preparing to react. We should  unite and cooperate to ensure peace. »

Maintain the status quo with Beijing

Hou Yu-ih, the Kuomintang candidate, also said he sought peaceful relations with Beijing.

The Kuomintang had previously supported unification with China, but the party has shifted its position in recent years as the Taiwanese electorate increasingly identifies as Taiwanese – rather than Chinese – and wishes to maintain the status quo in its relations with Beijing.

Mr. Hou said he opposed Taiwan's independence, but also possible unification under China's “one country, two systems” framework, which Beijing has used to govern Hong Kong, a former British colony returned to China. to China in 1997. Mr. Hou said he sought “democracy and freedom” for Taiwan.

Third candidate Ko Wen-je of the smaller Taiwan People's Party referenced a quote from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding US-China relations , asserting that “Taiwan and China will cooperate if they can cooperate, compete if there is a need to compete, and compete if they must compete.”

“People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are the same race and have the same history, language, religion and culture, but at this stage we have a different political system and way of life” , Mr. Ko argued, adding that “Taiwan needs autonomy and both sides of the Taiwan Strait need peace.”

“We must make the Chinese government understand that my goal is for Taiwan to maintain its political system, and its current democratic and free way of life,” argued Mr. Ko. “It is only if these conditions are met that we will be able to dialogue. »

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116