01/11/2012, 00.00
TAIWAN – CHINA

Businessmen for Ma Ying-jeou, Lee Teng-hui for opposition

After a race neck-and-neck, surveys give Ma a slight edge. However, Soong might get 5-10 per cent of the vote at Ma’s expense. Taiwan-China trade has improved significantly in recent years.
Taipei (AsiaNews) – Taiwan’s business community backs President Ma Ying-jeou, 61, in his re-election bid next Saturday. However, Taiwan's ex-leader Lee Teng-hui on Wednesday formally endorsed opposition presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen, 55.

Many Taiwanese businessmen involved in trade with the mainland support the outgoing president. Thanks to his quiet approach to China since 2008, the two sides of the strait have reached trade agreements and eased restrictions on air, sea and postal links.

Investments in China rose 22 per cent from a year ago to US$ 12.4 billion in the first 11 months of 2011.

The mainland also overtook Japan as Taiwan’s biggest source of overseas tourists in the same period, with 1.6 million visitors, 69 per cent more than a year earlier, according to Tourism Bureau Data.

Concerned about a victory by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which called for the island’s independence in the past heightening tensions with the mainland, Beijing has openly backed Ma, inviting members of his ruling Kuomintang (Nationalist) Party to the mainland. It has also retaliated against businessmen who back the DPP.

For her part, Tsai Ing-wen kept away from the independence issue during the election campaign; instead, she focused on job creation. At the same time, she pointed out that closer economic links with the mainland could result in a loss of autonomy for the island.

Today, she received the endorsement of former President Lee Teng-hui, who urged voters to cast their ballot for her.

In a letter published in major newspapers, Lee said that Beijing has to realise that it is facing the entire Taiwanese people, not one single political party, in dealing with the island.

Until recently, public opinion polls showed Ma and Tsai running neck-and-neck. The latest give a slight edge to Ma.

However, the emergence of political veteran Soong, 69, and his People First Party, a Kuomintang ally, will undoubtedly erode some of Ma's support, and could pose a threat if Soong secures 5 to 10 per cent of the votes.
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