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‘We’ve been stuck in this situation for quite some time’ – Radio Free Asia

As Taiwan gears up for presidential and legislative elections next Saturday, voters on the streets of the democratic island’s capital Taipei say a Chinese invasion isn’t at the top of their list of concerns. Despite the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing information wars, political infiltration, and military incursions in the Taiwan Strait, some of the island’s 23 million people say that such worries aren’t at the forefront of their minds.

As the country counts down the last days of a presidential race, voters must choose between incumbent ruling Democratic Progressive Party Vice President Lai Ching-te, who has a strong track record of standing up to China, against the more China-friendly opposition candidates – Hou Yu-ih for the Kuomintang and Ko Wen-je for the Taiwan People’s Party. But not all voters are following the threat from China as closely as they were. “It’s pretty pointless as a Taiwanese person to speculate on such matters, as we’ve been in this situation for a long time,” a voter who gave only the surname Lu told RFA Mandarin in a recent round of street interviews.

Much of the early debate on the presidential campaign trail revolved around how candidates will handle the military threat from China. But Chinese President Xi Jinping’s comments to U.S. President Biden at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November, in which he denied there was a timetable for an invasion of Taiwan, appear to have made voters feel more secure. “We all know deep down that there can be no war,” a voter who gave only the surname Weng said. “I’m not worried,” said a voter surnamed Chou.

Xi hasn’t relinquished China’s territorial claim on the island but a 31-year-old Taipei office worker who gave only the surname Hsieh said people are used to military threats and ramped-up rhetoric from Beijing at election time. “All of the parties want to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty,” Hsieh said, adding that he doesn’t see a vote for any of the candidates as a vote for war. The ruling party has a better track record when it comes to diplomacy, national defense, and boosting Taiwan’s international status, not to mention the all-important relationship with Washington.

A 90-year-old voter who gave only the surname Kao said he is a staunch Kuomintang supporter who doesn’t want to see Chinese interference in Taiwan’s democracy. “I wish China would stop interfering in Taiwanese politics,” Kao said. “Taiwan is under a democratic system now, which is different from communism.” A resident uses a magnifying glass as he reads a newspaper article calling Taiwan Vice President Lai Ching-te’s debate speech “Disaster words,” in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2023. A 90-year-old voter says she wishes “China would stop interfering in Taiwanese politics.” (Andy Wong/AP) A voter who gave only the surname Li said anti-communism has been deeply ingrained in Taiwanese society since the 1927-1949 civil war between the Kuomintang government of the 1911 Republic of China and communist insurgents. “They may fear our independence, but they didn’t build our country,” she said. “It’s better if they live their lives, we live ours, and we maintain peaceful cross-straits relations.”

Some told RFA Mandarin that they are more worried about the high price of housing than the threat of war. “The high cost of housing has led a lot of young people to lose confidence in the future,” Lu said. “The economy is still pretty important, and our leaders need to take active steps to deal with it.” Chou disagreed, saying the current leadership has done a good job, and that “Taiwan is very happy now,” and that she’s counting her blessings. Others said they were keen on Ko, because he appeared more down-to-earth, and to have concerns that were closer to their daily lives. “The stuff about China is kind of out of our reach, and I don’t pay much attention to it,” a voter surnamed Qu told RFA Mandarin. A Lai supporter surnamed Yang said the issue was much simpler for him. “We must elect people who are able to protect Taiwan,” he said. Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster

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