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Taiwan votes, with China on minds

TAIPEI, Taiwan (CNN) — Voters in Taiwan on Saturday headed to the polls to vote in presidential elections, with the recent violence in Tibet in the backdrop and Taiwan’s own relations with China on the front burner.

Ma Ying-jeou, a Nationalist Party candidate and frontrunner, is opposing the Democratic Progressive Party’s Frank Hsieh. Both favor closer ties with China but differ on details. Ma wants the benefits of China’s robust economy, while Hsieh wants to go slower and hold back in some areas.

The mainland Chinese government has made clear that closer ties would only be a first step — it considers Taiwan, on the island of Formosa southeast of the mainland, an inseparable part of China and constantly pushes for eventual reunification.

The issue of relations with China always casts a shadow over politics in Taiwan, and the recent anti-government riots in Tibet have reminded Taiwanese of the ramifications of declaring independence. China has threatened to go to war, should Taiwan declare formal independence. Watch the election spotlight on China relations

Tibet, in western China, was an independent country when China took control in 1949, the same year Taiwan split from the mainland in a civil war. Separatist aspirations and anti-government sentiments remain strong among many Tibetans.

Hsieh, pointing to China’s response, says the same thing could happen to Taiwan if it gets too close to Beijing.

Ma disagrees.

Taiwan is not Tibet. Neither it is Hong Kong. We are a sovereign country and a democratic country.

Ma favors a peace treaty with Beijing and the negotiation of a common market to boost already robust trade ties between two sides, The Associated Press reports.

China for Taiwan is the great threat, but also presents a great opportunity, said Ma, who has been attempting to win supporters among the portion of the Taiwanese public that is suspicious of closer relations with China. He has been campaigning Hsieh’s power base in the south, where the largest city is Kaohsiung.

Hsieh — who declined an interview with CNN — said last year that he wants to protect Taiwan, protect our way of life, to make sure we are not swallowed by China. Watch both Hsieh and Ma make their final pitches on election eve

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said the nation hopes to resume peace talks across the straits as soon as possible. Any questions can be addressed, including such major issues as ending the hostile state between the two sides.
Taiwan votes, with China on minds – found here.

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March 22, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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