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Vote for democracy by Fan Gang-Hsin

Taiwan held presidential elections on January 11th, 2020 to determine the course of its political and economic orientation for the next four years. Following six months of political unrest in Hong Kong that have impacted public opinion on the island, the elections came at a crucial time and revealed a deep divide within Taiwanese society.

The three candidates running for the election reflect the polarization of voters. While current president and candidate Tsai Ing-wen from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) calls for more social reforms and political as well as economic distance from China, Kuomintang runner Han Kuo-yu has built his platform on closer ties with Beijing, particularly in trade and investment, and represents the more conservative electorate. Finally, candidate James Soong, while historically a member of the Kuomintang, has since parted to establish his own agenda, a compromise between the DPP and the Kuomintang positions.

Most of the political campaign has been shaped by the dominating issues of economic development and relations with China. While the economy is overall in good shape, and even benefitting from the ongoing US-China trade war, there are challenges due to comparatively low salaries and raising living costs in large urban areas. Relations with Beijing are a divisive topic, as they relate to questions of economic, but also diplomatic independence, and to the even more sensitive issue of sovereignty. Other key questions in the campaign include moral and cultural values, the environment, and the reliability of the media.

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