The Chinese Communist Party is pressuring the Taiwanese people to vote “on the right side of history” by selecting presidential candidates open to reconnecting with the mainland.
Song Tao, head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, issued a message urging the island to “consider the bigger picture” on the future of China-Taiwan relations when choosing their next leader on Jan. 13.
“Taiwan compatriots should observe the overall situation, shoulder great responsibilities, consider the bigger picture and follow the right path,” Song said, according to translations from the South China Morning Post.
He continued, “They should firmly stand on the right side of history, promote the return of cross-strait relations to the correct track of peaceful development, and advance the process of the peaceful reunification of the motherland.”
According to opinion polls, the current frontrunner to become Taiwan’s next president is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s nominee, Lai Ching-te.
Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, traditionally supports close ties with the mainland and has vowed to reopen talks with China if it wins the election. But the Kuomintang also says Taiwan’s people will decide their future.
Song stated that Beijing is “firmly and persistently supporting patriotic and reunification forces within the island and opposing Taiwan independence and external interference.”
China has continued to flex its military might in the weeks leading up to the election.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said last month it had detected J-10, J-11 and J-16 fighters as well as early warning aircraft operating in the airspace to the north, middle and southwest of the island.
The ministry said 10 aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait median line or areas nearby and that the aircraft were working with Chinese warships to carry out “joint combat readiness patrols.”
China has not addressed its recent military activities near Taiwan, but it previously said they were intended to prevent “collusion” between Taiwan separatists and the U.S. and protect China’s territorial integrity.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory while the U.S. maintains “strategic ambiguity” on the issue.