Chinese Whispers

Who will be Taiwan’s next President?

43 min listen

In This Episode

Taiwan goes to the polls in just over a month. This is an election that could have wide repercussions, given the island’s status as a potential flashpoint in the coming years.

The incumbent President, Tsai Ing-wen, is coming to the end of two elected terms, meaning that she cannot run again. Her party’s chosen successor is William Lai – Lai Ching-te – who is the current vice president. For most of this year, he has been facing off opposition from the Kuomintang, the biggest opposition party in Taiwan, and the Taiwan People’s Party, a third party led by the charismatic Ko Wen-je.

Lai remains in the lead with a month to go, but polls show that the KMT is only a few points behind, meaning that an upset is still possible. Since Taiwan became a democracy, it’s the KMT that has been the party calling for closer relations to China, and Tsai and Lai’s DPP that has been more pro-independence and pro-West. Given Beijing has shut off the hotline with Taipei in protest of the DPP since Tsai was first elected in 2016, if Lai wins in January, relations with Beijing are unlikely to get better. But how can the KMT justify closer relations with China, when it seems like the world is in a different place compared to 2015, the last time the KMT held the presidency?

Joining the episode is William Yang, a Taipei-based freelance correspondent, who has written for Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian and the Times.

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