In the short eight years of full democracy in Taiwan, the election on Saturday will be the third. In each election, the candidate that Beijing did not like won office. Beijing has made it clear that it doesn’t want to see President Chen Shui-bian re-elected. By the workings of normal electoral arithmetic, Chen shouldn’t win. In the last election, he won on a minority vote.

But once again China has been waving its fist and Chen has a good chance of gaining a second term. As Taiwan becomes more democratic, as the older generation of Taiwan’s Chinese die and as Taiwan’s economy, technology and education advance, new voters are asking themselves why their country should kowtow before Beijing’s dictatorship.

All Chinese in Taiwan do not believe their island is part of China. And there’s the rub. For many in Taiwan, this is not a question of semantics but of principle and of history. Why should Taiwan forsake the cause of independence when it was only ruled in a very desultory manner by the Chinese, from 1683 to 1895? For most people in Taiwan, this was simply colonialism.

Another crisis between the two is certainly on the cards. Taiwan’s pushy democrats have both history and right on their side, but they also have to be pragmatic. With two great powers against it how can Taiwan manoeuvre to keep its freedom? — International Herald Tribune