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ELECTION 2024/Ko Wen-je may be Beijing's preference in 2024 Taiwan race: Scholar

05/26/2023 04:51 PM
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Taiwan People's Party Chairman Ko Wen-je (center) and party members unveil merchandise to be sold to raise funds for his run for the 2024 presidential elections, in Taipei on Friday. CNA photo May 26, 2023

Taipei, May 26 (CNA) Taiwan People's Party (TPP) presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Friday touted himself as the candidate most capable of handling Taiwan's relations with China and the United States, after he was said to be Beijing's preferred choice for president in Taiwan in 2024.

Speaking at a panel in Washington on Thursday, Bonnie Glaser, an American China expert, said she sensed that Beijing would rather see Ko than either Lai Ching-te (賴清德) of the Democratic Progressive Party or Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜) of the Kuomintang (KMT) win the 2024 race.

China was "nervous" about Lai partly because of "some of the things he said in the past," Glaser told the panel hosted by the Brookings Institute to discuss the future of Taiwan ahead of its presidential and legislative elections in January 2024.

Beijing also sees Lai, previously a lawmaker and mayor of Tainan, as coming from the radical end of the spectrum of what it considers a pro-Taiwan independence party, she said.

Glaser said China was also "uneasy" about Hou.

"He is Taiwanese. I think he reminds them [Beijing] of [Taiwan's late former President] Lee Teng-hui (李登輝)," Glaser said. "So they [Beijing] don't know him very well."

Glaser was likely referring to Hou and Lee as being Taiwanese rather than "mainlanders" who emigrated from China to Taiwan in the 1940s.

Source: Brookings Institution

After serving as president as a member of the KMT for 12 years from 1988 to 2000, Lee broke his ties with the KMT and advocated for Taiwan's formal independence, something Hou recently said he opposed.

According to Glaser, Ko, who served as mayor of Taipei from 2014 to 2022, had a track record of handling relations with China that made Beijing feel more "comfortable" in supporting him.

"They do know Ko Wen-je because he was mayor of Taipei, he went [visited China] and did a lot of collaborative things with the mainland for the Shanghai-Taipei conferences [and] meetings," she said.

On Friday in Taipei, Ko said Glaser's remarks could be interpreted as him being the candidate "most capable of communicating with both China and the U.S."

A purpose of him running for president is to position Taiwan as a bridge for communications between China and the U.S., not a pawn caught up in Sino-U.S. competition, Ko said.

Ko said he hoped Taiwan would remain an Ilha Formosa, or beautiful island, instead of becoming "the most dangerous place on Earth," as portrayed by international media, and would go from a divided society fraught with political infighting to a harmonious, united society.

(By Stacy Hsu, Liu Kuan-ting and Shih Hsiu-chuan)


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