Taiwan's people have to make a choice at next year's election about whether the island keeps moving forward on the road to democracy or "walks into the embrace of China," the front-runner to be the next president said Tuesday.

The issue of China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, looms large ahead of the Jan. 13 presidential and parliamentary elections, especially as Beijing has been stepping up its military pressure on the island.

Lai Ching-te, vice president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate, has led in most opinion polls ahead of the election. The DPP champions Taiwan's separate identity from China