Written by Ashley Deng-Yu Chen. During my interview sessions and participant-observation activities in Southern Taiwan, many findings struck me, even as a “local anthropologist”. Firstly, most of my interlocutors who had lived through the authoritarian decades under the KMT almost unanimously claimed that the current form of “democracy” and “liberal society” was not any better than the “social order” that was safeguarded by the rigid martial law order. Moreover, with the KMT losing the last general election in 2016 to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), many supporters subsequently believed that Taiwan had since sunk into a dark ditch of “political correctness” with obsessions of LGBTQ+ rights and naive revolutionist values.
Written by Brian Hioe. It is not out of the question that such young people will eventually take the reins of power. Indeed, they will once older politicians depart the political scene. But all appearances to the contrary, this may be a premature assessment. It may not be, in fact, that young people have come of age in Taiwanese politics, and instead of that, they remain subject to the larger established forces that have remained dominant for decades in politics. Whether this changes is to be seen.
Written by Dongtao Qi. After a 25-year absence from the political arena, political commentator and media guru Chao Shao-kang returned to the Kuomintang (KMT), immediately declaring his intention to run for the KMT chairmanship this July and for Taiwan’s presidency in the 2024 election. This seems to have reinvigorated a deflated KMT since its defeat in the 2020 presidential election. Much speculation among the public has also ensued about whether Chao would be a flash in the pan and do even worse than former presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu who had stirred up a “Han craze” back then.
Written by Nicholas Welch. Approaching the January 2020 Taiwan elections, many Taiwanese and international spectators broadly feared PRC-based disinformation operations weakening Taiwan’s democratic institutions. In particular, many feared Russian-style “covert social influence via the use of bots and fake persona accounts,” which would sway public opinion en masse. Nevertheless, when the dust settled, it remained unclear whether the PRC propagated that form of disinformation at all. Before the election, and although no substantial evidence for such claims exists, the international community pre-emptively accused the PRC of spreading disinformation.
Written by Rose Adams. At only 20 years since its first democratic transfer of power, Taiwan’s democracy is shockingly well developed. With a voter turnout of 74.9% in 2020’s national election and a female President, Taiwan has achieved democratic feats that even the United States has yet to realize with 200-plus years of democratic experience. One of the more impressive of these records is Taiwan’s current percentage of women in government: a whopping 38% of legislative seats, one of the highest of any democracy. Compare that 38% to Japan and Korea, two of Taiwan’s neighbours who have similar electoral systems. At 10% and 17 %, respectively, of Japan and Korea’s legislature seats filled by women, Taiwan’s success is miraculous.
Written by Hiro Fu. Media personality Jaw Shaw-kong has taken Taiwanese media by storm with the consecutive announcements of his return to the Kuomintang (KMT), possible bid for party chairman, and intent to gun for the 2024 presidency. The daily coverage following Jaw’s return foreshadows his impact on the political landscape, but will he be able to, as he claims, “Make Taiwan Great Again” or even make the KMT great again, for that matter?
Written by Chieh-chi Hsieh. On 16 January, Taoyuan city councillor Wang Hao-yu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was revoked by a whopping 84,582 ‘in-favour’ ballots. This was a staggering contrast to the 16,292 ballots received that won him his re-election merely two years prior. This election makes Wang the first city councillor from one of Taiwan’s six special municipalities to be recalled. More importantly, one can tentatively make a case that this is an important success for opposition parties such as the Kuomintang (KMT) and other pan-blue parties (e.g., People First Party) regaining political clout against the incumbent DPP government.
Written by Wei-Ting Yen. In the past few years, two political outsiders in Taiwan have quickly accumulated popularity and became serious political contenders in elections. One is Ko Wen-Je, currently the mayor of Taipei. The other one is Han Kuo-Yu, the recently impeached mayor of Kaohsiung, the second-largest city in Taiwan. Their rise has prompted the island nation to widely debate whether populism has grown its roots in Taiwan because Ko and Han share similar populist traits.
Written by Douglas H. Paal. Four years ago, on December 2, 2016, shortly after Donald Trump had become president-elect, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen placed a phone call to Trump to congratulate him on his recent victory. Reportedly, someone trusted by Taipei with access to Trump had told Ms Tsai that her call would be received and not rejected. It was the first such opportunity for contact at that level since the United States broke diplomatic relations with the Republic of China in 1979, and so politically irresistible for Taiwan’s leader.
Written by Elizabeth Freund Larus and Shirley Martey Hargis. After a protracted battle, the election of Joe R. Biden as the 46th US President is all but certain. All eyes in Taiwan are now turning to Biden to see whether he will continue President Donald J. Trump’s hardline against China and support of Taiwan. For the past four years, the Trump administration and the US Congress have responded to Beijing’s attempts to ostracize Taiwan by increasing support for Taipei. During his campaign, Biden promised to get tough on China. Yet his history as a political moderate makes it unlikely that he will be antagonistic to China, especially when it involves Taiwan.
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. The victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the US Presidential elections will mean a sea change for how the United States deals with the rest of the world, and how the world perceives the United States. However, interestingly, for Taiwan, it is expected to bring continuity. Biden himself has a long history of support for Taiwan. He was already a member of the United States Senate in 1979 when the Taiwan Relations Act was approved. When he became chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2001, the first country he visited as chairman was Taiwan. Moreover…
Written by Christine Penninga-Lin. After a heated election campaign and long vote counting, Joe Biden is going to swear in as the 46th President of the United States. The interest for the 2020 US election is shared among the Taiwanese, and many found themselves preferring Trump over Biden for his administration’s Taiwan policy in the past four-year. An almost unimaginable development had these people been asked in 2016. After four years of Trump’s presidency, the US-Taiwan relation already looks significantly different than that before 2016. And so are the Sino-American relations.