The election will likely determine whether Taiwan can ease tensions with Beijing, which has vowed to reunify with the breakaway province – by force, if necessary. The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) have both pledged to pursue talks with the mainland government to “restore peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.” Chinese officials have branded Lai a separatist and “troublemaker.”
Beijing suspended diplomatic contact with Taipei after the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen took office as president in 2016. Tsai has hosted visits by US politicians, angering the CCP, and has ramped up purchases of American weaponry. For its part, the People’s Liberation Army has carried out large-scale wargames in the Taiwan Strait.
The latest poll by Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS showed that Lai was leading the presidential race with support from 33% of voters. TPP candidate Ko Wen-je and the KMT’s Hou Yu-ih were polling at 24% and 22%, respectively. The TPP and KMT agreed on Wednesday to choose one of their candidates, based on a joint analysis of the polls, then to make the other candidate his vice-presidential running mate.
TVBS said a formal announcement on the selection of Hsiao as Lai’s running mate is expected to be made on Monday, the first day for official candidate registrations. Hsiao is currently attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, where US President Joe Biden held a long-awaited meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
The envoy will reportedly return to Taiwan for the presidential campaign after the APEC summit. A spokesman for Lai’s campaign, Vincent Chao, declined to confirm that Hsiao will join the DPP’s ticket. Without naming the chosen candidate, he told Reuters that the running mate will “reinforce our commitment to the people of Taiwan and the international community that democracy, peace and prosperity will continue to be our guiding values.”
Former Pentagon official Randall Schriver described Hsiao as a good promoter of US-Taiwan relations. “If ambassador Hsiao becomes vice president, there is no doubt this will be to the benefit of US-Taiwan relations,” he told Reuters.
Hsiao was born in Japan to a Taiwanese father and an American mother. She attended college in the US and long served as an international spokeswoman for the DPP. Beijing has twice imposed sanctions on Hsiao and called her a diehard separatist. The most recent sanctions came in April, barring her and her family members from traveling to the mainland, Hong Kong or Macau.
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