Taiwan will vote on Jan 13 in presidential and parliamentary elections, held once every four years.
President Tsai Ing-wen is barred by the constitution from standing again after two terms in office.
Here is a list of the candidates standing for president:
Lai, also widely known by his English name William, is running for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Currently Taiwan’s vice president, he is also the DPP’s chairman, and has consistently led opinion polls.
Lai, along with Tsai, has repeatedly offered talks with China but have been rebuffed, as Beijing views them both as separatists.
Lai, 64, and Tsai say only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
His running mate is Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s high-profile former de facto ambassador to the US.
Hou, 66, is the candidate for Taiwan’s main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT), whose government fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s Communists.
Hou is the mayor of Taipei’s neighbouring city New Taipei, though he has taken a leave of absence to run for president. He was re-elected as the mayor in a landslide last year.
The KMT traditionally favours closer ties with China but strongly denies being pro-Beijing. Hou has said he will restart talks with Beijing.
His running mate is the fiery media personality Jaw Shaw-kong.
Ko, a former Taipei mayor, is the candidate for the small Taiwan People’s Party.
He had been talking to the KMT about a joint ticket to take on the DPP, but those talks collapsed this week in bitter disagreement.
Ko, 64, has chosen as his vice presidential candidate one of the party’s lawmakers, Cynthia Wu, whose family is a major shareholder of conglomerate Shin Kong Group.
Ko and Hou have both been battling for second spot in opinion polls behind Lai.
ALSO READ: China ties on the line as Taiwan opposition splits in dramatic feud