Beijing may prefer Ko Wen-je over Hou You-ih in Taiwan’s presidential race, says cross-strait expert

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Former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je

26th May 2023 – (Taipei) According to Bonnie Glaser, a Washington-based expert on cross-strait affairs, Beijing may prefer former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je to New Taipei Mayor Hou You-ih in Taiwan’s presidential race next year. Glaser, who is the managing director of the German Marshall Fund‘s Indo-Pacific Program, made this remark on Thursday at a panel discussion hosted by the Brookings Institution on the topic of “What does the future hold for Taiwan?”

Glaser believes that Beijing has been unnerved by the past pro-independence statements of Vice President Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). They believe he comes from the more “radical” end of the political spectrum of the party. She noted that China may also be uneasy about Hou, the candidate for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), “who reminds them of Lee Teng-hui” and whom “they do not know very well.” She argued that Chinese officials may be more comfortable seeing Ko, the candidate for the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), elected, due to the many collaborations he has advocated during his tenure as the mayor of Taipei, including the Shanghai-Taipei conferences.

Glaser also shared what she thinks could be Beijing’s “toolbox” to meddle with the election. This includes sending Taiwanese business people home to vote, pushing a narrative questioning the DPP’s governance ability and the U.S.’ reliability, and supporting pro-China groups with the leverage they have gained from the restrictions imposed on Taiwanese agricultural products.

Lai has been leading in polls when pitted against Hou and Ko. In one poll conducted by the UDN released on Tuesday (May 23), Lai secured 28% of the public support, followed by Hou’s 24% and Ko’s 22%.