Factbox-Key facts on Taiwan-China relations ahead of Taiwan elections

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(Reuters) - Taiwan goes to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president and parliament. China, which considers Taiwan merely a Chinese province and part of its territory despite the objections of the island's government, will be watching the outcome closely.

Following are key facts on ties between Taiwan and China:


- China has claimed Taiwan through its "one China" policy since the Chinese civil war forced the defeated Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalists, to flee to the island in 1949 and has vowed to bring it under Beijing's rule, by force if necessary.

- Taiwan's government says it is already a sovereign country, officially called the Republic of China, a position supported by the island's main opposition parties.

- Ties were badly strained when Chen Shui-bian from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was Taiwan president from 2000-2008 because of his independence rhetoric, even as he tried to maintain positive relations with Beijing.

- Relations warmed considerably after Ma Ying-jeou, from the KMT which favours close ties to China, took office as president in 2008 and then won re-election in 2012. Ma held a landmark meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in late 2015.

- In 2014, hundreds of students occupied Taiwan's parliament for weeks in protests nicknamed the Sunflower Movement. They demanded more transparency in trade pacts negotiated with China in the largest display of anti-China sentiment the island had seen in years.

- Since the DPP's Tsai Ing-wen became president in 2016, and won re-election in 2020 Taiwan-China ties have soured again, with China cutting off a formal dialogue mechanism, flying fighter jets around Taiwan, forcing foreign firms to refer to Taiwan as part of China on their websites, and whittling away at Taiwan's diplomatic allies.

- Beijing believes Tsai wants to push Taiwan's independence, a red line for China. She says she wants to maintain the status quo, declaring neither Taiwan's formal independence nor seeking to join with China.

- Vice President Lai Ching-te is the DPP's presidential candidate. China also detests him as a separatist and has rebuffed multiple offers of talks.

- The KMT candidate Hou Yu-ih, mayor of Taipei's neighbouring city New Taipei, wants better ties with China to help boost Taiwan's economy, including pushing a trade services pact shelved in 2014 and restarting talks with Beijing.

- Former Taipei major Ko Wen-je of the small Taiwan People's Party is also running for the presidency.


- China is Taiwan's top trading partner, with trade totalling $224 billion in 2023. Taiwan runs a large trade surplus with China.

- China, with its 1.3 billion people and much cheaper costs, is also Taiwan's favourite investment destination with Taiwan companies investing over $100 billion there, private estimates show.

- Taiwan has been encouraging Taiwanese businesses back home and to shift investment to other countries like Vietnam and India to reduce the reliance on China.


- China and Taiwan have nearly gone to war several times since 1949, and in August of 2022 and April of 2023 China staged large scale war games around the island in protest at stepped up U.S. engagement with Taiwan.

- Taiwan says China runs a sophisticated online disinformation campaign to support China-friendly candidates.

- China has framed the elections as a choice between "peace and war", calling the ruling party dangerous separatists and urging Taiwanese to make the "right choice". It says allegations of election interference are DPP "dirty tricks".

- The United States, which has called for the vote to be free from "outside interference", is obliged to help Taiwan with the means to defend itself under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. China always reacts angrily to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and has repeatedly demanded they stop.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)