Taiwan’s China-sceptic president, Tsai Ing-wen, may win again

Jan 02, 2020

ELECTION RALLIES in Taiwan often feel like festivals with a dash of politics thrown in. At a recent one in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, thousands of people watched a fireworks display, then heard a blind blues singer. Eventually the show’s political star took to the stage: Enoch Wu, a young would-be legislator for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). China’s leader, Xi Jinping, “is watching to see if we are sure to defend our homeland,” he told the crowd. “We are,” his fans roared back.

One question always looms largest in Taiwan’s elections for president and parliament, held simultaneously every four years, this time on January 11th: how to handle the island’s twitchy relations with an ever more powerful China. Many of Taiwan’s nearly 24m people have been warily watching the unrest in Hong Kong. Twice in 2019 Mr Xi declared that Taiwan should reunify with the mainland under a “one country, two systems” formula, as Hong Kong did. China’s ability to force such a solution on Taiwan is increasingly plain. On December 26th China sent its newly commissioned aircraft-carrier, the Shandong, through the Taiwan Strait for the second time in as many months.

Since 2000 Taiwanese voters’ main choice for president has been either a candidate who leans toward independence from China, thereby incurring...

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