(From AFP)

Taiwan’s fraught relationship with China will be centre stage this weekend as frustrated voters head to the polls to elect a new Beijing-sceptic leader.

Taiwan election campaign volunteers
Taiwan election campaign volunteers

The vote comes after eight years of rapprochement between the two bitterly opposed sides, separated since the end of a civil war in 1949, culminating in a historic summit and handshake beamed around the world.

But the landmark meeting between Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in November only exacerbated growing fears over Beijing’s influence in Taiwan, and voters are pushing back.

Tsai Ing-wen of the traditionally pro-independence main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is well ahead in the polls, poised to unseat Ma’s Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT).

She has pledged to maintain the current “status quo” with China. But analysts agree a deterioration of ties is inevitable.

“Relations will cool,” says Steve Tsang, professor of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham.

“Tsai is unlikely to take actions or say things to provoke Beijing — but Beijing does not trust her.” Read more