(From AFP)

By Laura Mannering

Taiwan is expected to turn its back on closer ties with China when it votes for a new president on Saturday, in an election symbolising the island’s battle for identity.

Tsai Ing-wen waves to supporters in final days of her presidential campaign

As citizens prepare to go to the polls, many frustrated Taiwanese are calling for change as fears grow over China’s increasing influence, casting a gloom exacerbated by economic woes.

Current president Ma Ying-jeou was voted in by a landslide eight years ago, promising prosperity through warmer relations with Beijing.

But trade deals and a tourism boom under his ruling Kuomintang (KMT) have been offset by deep unease that China is eroding Taiwan’s identity and sovereignty by making it economically dependent.

Voters are also angry that the economic benefits from closer ties have not filtered down to ordinary Taiwanese.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) — which takes a much more sceptical approach to China relations — is tipped to win Saturday’s vote, and make its leader Tsai Ing-wen Taiwan’s first woman president.

“I’m concerned the government is eager to pursue ties with China without carefully calculating the risks,” said Lee Yi-chung, a Taipei businessman in his 40s who will be voting DPP. Read more

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