Taiwan’s 2020 election candidates? It’s the US vs China

South China Morning Post
Date: 28 Jul, 2019
By: Cary Huang  


  • Never has the question of whether to align with Washington or Beijing been more important for voters in the island’s presidential race
  • The polls are set to become a proxy battleground for the two competing powers as well as a stress test for a delicate triangle of ties

Since their debut in 1996, Taiwan’s presidential elections have been a showdown between the self-

Cary Huang

ruled island’s independence-leaning camp and those favouring unification with China

.There will be no exception this time as incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen faces off with Han Kuo-yu, the popular mayor of Kaohsiung, in January 2020, when legislative elections will also take place. The presidential races offer choices that divide the electorate along multiple lines – idealism or reality, confrontation or compromise, politics or economics. They pit mainland migrants against Taiwan natives, the old against the young, among the island’s 23 million people.Unlike in other democracies where local issues largely determine the outcome, Taiwan’s polls are often more about relations with the world’s two major powers – China and the United States – as the island relies on America for its security and on the mainland for business. But this time, the debate carries extra weight because of a series of developments under the presidencies of Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Tsai.

There have long been ups and downs in the triangle of relations between Washington, Beijing and Taipei. Currently US-China ties are at their lowest point since former US president Richard Nixon’s ice-breaking trip to the Middle Kingdom in 1972. Mainland-Taiwan relations are the worst since the two sides began semi-official contact in the mid-1990s. However, the relationship between America and Taiwan is at its strongest since Jimmy Carter ended official US-Taiwan contact in 1979

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