Taiwanese voters are set to cast their ballots on January 16 to elect a new president for their self-ruling island. DW takes a look at the three candidates contesting the poll and their China policies.
Candidate number 1: Eric Chu (KMT)
Chu is the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party’s candidate for president. The 54-year-old leader, who received a PhD in accounting from New York University in the US in 1991, is the KMT’s current party chairman. Despite initially refusing to enter the presidential race, Chu declared his candidacy in October after being selected by the party to replace Hung Hsiu-chu. Hsiu-chu, a former school teacher, had been unpopular with voters, trailing badly in opinion polls.
When it comes to cross-strait relations, Chu embraces outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou’s China policy and accepts the so-called “1992 consensus,” which refers to an agreement between leaders of Taiwan and mainland China that there is only “one China.” The concept, however, remains ambiguous enough to accommodate different interpretations.
Candidate number 2: Tsai Ing-wen (DDP)
Fifty-nine-year-old Tsai Ing-wen is the opposition Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate. She earned a PhD in Law from the London School of Economics (LSE) and is the current DPP party chairwoman.
Tsai, who currently holds a sizeable lead in polls, was a negotiator for Taiwan’s accession to the World Trade Organization in the 1990s. Under former President Chen Shui-bian, Tsai served as head of the Mainland Affairs Council, the body in charge of Taiwan’s China policy.
Tsai narrowly lost the 2012 presidential election to Ma Ying-Jeou. She was the first female candidate to run for Taiwanese president.
The British “Financial Times” newspaper named Tsai as one of the most remarkable women of 2015.
With regard to cross-strait relations, Tsai has yet to take a position on the “1992 consensus,” which she has neither recognized nor rejected. The DPP leader has stressed that if elected, she will strive to maintain the status quo in relations between Taiwan and China and that there will not be any provocative acts.
Candidate number 3: James Soong (PFP)
Seventy-three-year-old Soong is the People’s First Party’s (PFP) presidential candidate. Soong, born on mainland China, moved to Taiwan in 1949 with his father, a general in the Kuomintang’s National Army.
Soong obtained a PhD in political science from Georgetown University in the US. Following an internal power struggle within the KMT party that pitted Soong against then-President Lee Teng-hui, Soong was expelled from the party.
After unsuccessfully contesting the 2000 presidential election as an independent candidate, Soong founded the PFP party. And as the PFP’s candidate, he lost another presidential vote in 2012.
Soong is one of the few Taiwanese politicians to have had good connections with the communist leaders in Beijing. He has met both the current Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as his predecessor, Hu Jintao. The PFP leader accepts the “1992 consensus” and seeks better relations and close cooperation with Beijing.