China ties dominate Taiwan presidential debate

Lai has generally been leading opinion polls by around five points, but some have put his main challenger, Hou Yu-ih of Taiwan’s largest opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT), much closer behind.

Hou accused Lai of smearing him with accusations of being pro-China. Hou said he opposed both Taiwan independence and China’s “one country, two systems” model of autonomy it has offered to Taiwan, but which no mainstream party supports.

“The current status quo is that the Taiwan Strait is on the brink of war. So, to maintain close ties with the United States while also making peace with China is the solution to the problem,” Hou said.

The KMT traditionally favours close ties with China but strongly denies being pro-Beijing. Like the DPP, the KMT says that only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

China has described the election as a choice between war and peace.

Lai also criticised Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je for having said the island and China “are one family”.

Ko, whose small TPP has performed above expectations in Taiwan’s dominant two-party landscape, called President Tsai’s cross-strait policies “a mess”.

“Cross-strait issues are not just between Taiwan and China, but it’s also between the United States and China,” Ko said.

“Taiwan needs to find a balance on this … The DPP always takes a very confrontational attitude while the KMT is always thinking about cooperation (with China).”

Ko added that his bottom line on engaging with China was the protection of Taiwan’s current political system and way of life.

“With this bottom line, I’m willing to talk to you,” he said.

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