China’s issues dominate the election of Taiwan’s opposition leaders

Nasty relations with neighboring China dominate the election of the leader of Taiwan’s main opposition nationalist party

Four candidates, including incumbent Chairman Johnny Chiang, are vying for the leadership of the party that has advocated closer ties with Beijing.

This means accepting Beijing’s demand that it see Taiwan as part of China, something Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party has refused to do.

China has threatened to use force to bring Taiwan under its control and has increasingly used military, diplomatic and economic pressure in an attempt to undermine the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen and influence public opinion among the Taiwanese people, who strongly advocate the status quo de facto Independent.

In the eyes of public opinion, the nationalists have advocated a less cruel relationship with China, rather than direct steps towards unification between the parties, which are bound by close economic, linguistic and cultural ties.

Other candidates are former party chairman and presidential candidate Eric Chu, ex-governor Cho Po-yuan and academic Chang Ya-chung. The results are expected to be announced early on Saturday night.

The winner may emerge as the party’s candidate in the next presidential election in 2024, even if the election has not yet begun. Tsai is constitutionally barred from running for a third term.

Under Chiang Kai-shek, the party rose to power in China in the 1920s and led the fight against Japanese invaders until the end of World War II. Chiang moved the government, still officially known as the Republic of China, to Taiwan in 1949 when Mao Zedong’s Communists swept to power in mainland China.

China refuses to recognize the Taiwanese government and ensures that it is excluded from the UN and other international organizations.

Beijing says the island’s participation in such roles as an observer at the World Health Assembly depends on its approval of the “one-China principle” and the “92 consensus”, named after an agreement reached the same year between nationalist and communist representatives that the sides were a part of a single Chinese nation.

Following Taiwan’s first victory in the 2016 elections, China suspended all formal contacts between governments, banned Chinese travel groups from visiting the island and launched a campaign to steal Taiwan’s declining diplomatic allies.

With increasing frequency, China has also sent military aircraft into the airspace near Taiwan and carried out threatening military exercises.

Partly in response, the United States has increased political and military support for the island, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties between them.

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