Taipei, Taiwan – Han Kuo-yu was largely unknown till becoming the mayor of Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung in November final year. But now, he is hoping his “outsider” status inside an establishment celebration can support him come to be Taiwan’s subsequent president – even as China ratchets up its rhetoric on the island it views as its personal. 

Han, who is due to make his 1st policy speech on Sunday, was selected earlier this month as the candidate of the opposition and pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) to take on President Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Celebration (DPP), in January’s election.

The 62-year-old, who is noticed as representing neither the mainstream KMT nor Taiwan’s political establishment, on July 15 beat 4 rivals to the nomination which includes Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of tech gear maker Foxconn.

At a rally in the capital, Taipei, on July 1, Han had told a crowd of at least tens of thousands of supporters that he would be a “president for the frequent men and women”.

“He’s a populist. His fa da cai [get rich] rhetoric is attractive to men and women in the similar way a lot of [United States President Donald] Trump’s empty rhetoric appeals to a lot of Americans,” stated Lev Nachman, a researcher who research social movements and political parties on the island.

Xi: No one can modify truth Taiwan is aspect of China

“His capacity to appeal in this manner is what has led to his achievement so far,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that there was an element of class-primarily based assistance in the course of Han’s mayoral election.

‘China hope’

Han got his begin in politics as a member of Taiwan’s legislature in 1993, but it was not till his Kaohsiung election win that he was pushed into the limelight.

The southern city had been a DPP fortress for 20 years, but Han wooed voters with promises to address a series of monetary grievances, which includes the increasing price of living, stagnant wages, a moribund job marketplace and escalating inequality.

Whilst Han also promised voters he was prepared to be “smashed to pieces for the Republic of China”, referring to Taiwan’s official name, he also supported a deeper financial partnership with the mainland.

He is playing the ‘China hope’ card [as KMT’s presidential candidate], pledging close ties with China as an instant repair to Taiwan’s financial woes,” said Jonathan Sullivan, a researcher of Taiwanese politics and the director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham.

Taiwan president

Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen is operating for re-election in January. She has championed Taiwan, and its democratic credentials, against a backdrop of protests in Hong Kong and an assertive China. [FILE/Taiwan Presidential Office/AP Photo]

Taiwan was founded by the nationalists who had been defeated in China’s civil war in 1949.

Just after decades of authoritarian rule, direct presidential elections had been introduced in 1996 and the island is now a thriving democracy with a technologies-driven economy. Development in 2018 was 1.eight %.

But China has lengthy maintained that Taiwan is aspect of its territory – the so-referred to as “a single China principle”. This week, a white paper by the Chinese defence ministry reiterated Beijing’s willingness to retake the island by force if vital.

The Chinese government reduce off its communication channel with the island following Tsai became president in 2016 and refused to recognise the “a single China principle”.

In current years, it has also sought to cultivate the island’s handful of remaining diplomatic allies, with 5 nations – which includes classic allies El Salvador and Panama – shifting ties to the mainland in the course of Tsai’s term in workplace.

But Tsai has identified renewed assistance in Western capitals.

The US agreed this month to sell arms worth $two.2bn to Taiwan – a move which China stated “severely violated the fundamental norms of international law and international relations”.

This came as Tsai produced stops in each New York and Denver as she toured a quantity of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the Caribbean.

Whilst defending the status quo, Tsai has also shown her assistance for mass protests that began in June in Hong Kong, and has stated she would think about supplying asylum to protesters primarily based on humanitarian principles.

Han, in contrast, travelled to the territory in March to speak trade. In June, as the 1st enormous rallies got below way, he stated he had no thought about them.

Amid a public outcry, he issued 3 “unquestionable resolutions”, as he referred to as them: that he was committed to defend the Republic of China, safeguard Taiwan’s democratic technique and safeguard the island’s way of life.

In a current survey on modifications in Taiwanese and Chinese identity amongst men and women on the island, National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center identified that as of June 2019 about 57 % identified as Taiwanese, although 37 % stated they had been each Taiwanese and Chinese. Some 4 % stated they had been Chinese although the rest chose not to answer.

Hong Kong protests Taiwan flag

Taiwan flags amongst protesters demanding the resignation of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and the withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill in Hong Kong on June 16. The protests have come to be an challenge in self-ruled Taiwan. [James Pomfret/Reuters]

Sullivan stated that Han had a lot of “potent assistance” behind him, which includes from pro-China media outlets whose parent firms have business enterprise interests in the mainland.

“No outsider challenger [in Taiwan’s history] has benefitted from the media assistance that Han does a peculiar kind of outdoors influence somewhat reminiscent of the synergy amongst Trump and Fox News,” he added.

Nonetheless, Han would need to have to marshal all his powers for the battle ahead.

His choice to run for president following committing himself to Kaohsiung has upset some voters, and there is speak as well that Gou, the Foxconn founder, may well decide on to bankroll his personal campaign and run as an independent.

“There is so a great deal to speak about, not just standard trade with China,” Nachman stated. “With Hong Kong in the mix, it will modify how we speak about cross-strait relations.”

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