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Taiwan election nears, reviving tensions with China

| Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, 7:48 p.m.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Presidential Office Building in Taipei isn't easily mistaken for other buildings; it's an ornate Baroque-style structure that dates back to 1919 and is capped by a 200-foot-tall tower.

In July, China held a military exercise that included an assault on a building that, based on video from the mainland, closely resembled the presidential offices in Taipei.

The anxiety thermostat in Taiwan spiked. Many saw it as evidence that a real military invasion of their island could be in the works.

“There was a building that looked exactly like our president's office,” Hsia Li-yan, minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said in a recent interview. “What else could I think?”

Relations between Taiwan and China are less volatile than they were a decade ago, and strong economic ties serve as a hedge against hostilities. Yet the status quo could be shaken as soon as January, when Taiwan voters elect a new president.

Recent polls indicate a possible landslide victory for Tsai Ing-wen, who heads the Democratic Progressive Party and is far less friendly to Beijing than Taiwan's president, Ma Ying-jeou of the Chinese Nationalist Party.

On the mainland, China's leaders have made clear that they would treat Tsai's election as an affront. “All things we have achieved now could collapse,” Zhang Zhijun, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said this year.

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