Taiwan's opposition has begun framing the 2024 presidential election around the choice between war or peace with China, blaming the government for increasing hostilities with its neighbour, according to a report in Asia Nikkei.
After experiencing setbacks in the last two presidential elections, the Kuomintang (KMT) gained confidence when it won the recent local elections.
The party intends to challenge President Tsai Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and is considering potential leaders, including Terry Gou, the founder of major Apple supplier Foxconn.
The ruling party has abandoned the idea of an open primary, causing confusion over the nomination. Mayor Hou You-yi of New Taipei is leading in popularity, despite not revealing his Beijing-related agenda.
The upcoming KMT leader's stance on China will dominate the 2024 elections and shape Taiwan's security as tensions with Beijing escalate. Despite Beijing's claim, Taiwan has never been ruled by Communist China.
Recently, Beijing conducted war games near Taiwan and expressed anger over a meeting between Tsai and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California.
The United States' backing of Taiwan against China's hostility is a critical issue in the already strained Sino-American relationship. Furthermore, certain US military officials have cautioned about the possibility of a potential invasion of the island.
Opposition party KMT links support for ruling DPP with war instead of peace, due to public support trailing behind Tsai's DPP.
Gou warned young voters against backing DPP, citing its promotion of Taiwan independence and hostility towards China in a news conference.
The pro-Beijing tycoon has criticised Taiwan's weapons purchases, deeming them provocative. He believes that possessing weapons invites conflict and that the Chinese don't engage in acts of violence against their own.
The KMT spokesperson, Alfred Lin, depicted the Vice President and ruling party's candidate, William Lai Ching-te, as a staunch supporter of Taiwan independence, likely to worsen relations with China. After Tsai took office in 2016, China broke off all connections with Taiwan, and as she is not eligible for another term, Lai has emerged as a strong contender.
Lin warned that his candidacy could escalate tensions across the Taiwan Strait and increase the likelihood of a military conflict, causing international concerns.
DPP denies characterisation of Lai.
According to Peifen Hsieh, a spokesperson for Lai, he has openly expressed his support for the Four Commitments proposed by President Tsai in several public statements. It is clear that there will be no deviation from Tsai's positions and policies under Lai's leadership, ensuring continuity.
The KMT, which stresses a common vision of a "One China" concept between Taiwan and China, has been facing a dilemma due to rising tensions since the start of Chinese President Xi Jinping's reign. The party claims to not be pro-Beijing, but still holds its stance.
However, the interpretations of "One China" differ greatly, with KMT suggesting that both Taiwan and China hold claim, while Beijing thinks that Taiwan is a part of the People's Republic of China.
In 1949, the Republic of China's government led by Chiang Kai-shek escaped to Taiwan after being defeated by Mao Zedong's communist party, and imposed martial law for several decades. However, in 1987, Taiwan underwent a democratisation process, resulting in the KMT's loss of power.
KMT's Lin stated they support good relations with the US and Japan, and peaceful ties with China.
KMT win strengthens Taiwan's defence, but also promotes dialogue with Beijing to reduce tension and miscalculation risk across the Taiwan Strait, says Lin.
According to him, the presidential election is a decision between aggression and peace for the region.
The war or peace narrative was reiterated by ex-president Ma Ying-jeou, who accused Tsai's government of escalating tensions, as he embarked on a 12-day visit to China concurrent with recent military drills; Ma is the initial former Taiwanese leader to journey to China.
Former KMT official and professor Huang Kwei-bo said party officials prefer a balance between Washington and Beijing.
Most top KMT officials favor a pro-US and peaceful approach towards China, with an emphasis on non-threatening development of Taiwan's defences. According to a statement to Nikkei.
However, KMT's "conflict or peace" tactic failed to secure victory despite being a previously used strategy in elections.
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