Written by John F. Copper. On December 18, 2021, a four-question referendum will be presented to voters in Taiwan. The first question deals with constructing a receiving terminal for natural gas on Taoyuan’s Datan Algae Reef. The second is about importing pork from the United States that may contain a possible dangerous additive. The third concerns the activation of the Lungman Nuclear Power Plant. Finally, the fourth allows, or rejects, referendums being held together with general elections.
Written by John F. Copper. Shortly before Donald Trump left office, a top government leader in Taiwan proclaimed that he was the best U.S. president for Taiwan ever. Taiwan’s residents felt the same. President Trump ranked extraordinarily high in local public approval ratings. He was considered pro-Taiwan. Most believed he liked Taiwan and would protect it from China.
Written by John F. Copper. In January this year, Taiwan held a key national election. The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) president, Tsai Ing-wen, won reelection while the DPP kept its majority in the national legislature. It was an across-the-board victory for the pro-independence party. Fast forward to autumn, nine months later. How does Taiwan look politically? Not much different! Reassessing campaign policies and reality-checking that usually follow a big election have been mostly missing.
Written by John F. Copper. In 1963 I journeyed to Taiwan to further my study of Chinese, sponsored by the East West Center at the University of Hawaii. I heard of Lee Teng-hui at this time. He was one of the experts that designed and operationalized Taiwan’s well-known and eminently successful land reform program. Little did I know that Lee would become one of modern Taiwan’s foremost leaders and someone I would meet and learn much more about in coming years.
Written by John F. Copper. Had the economic numbers not been in their favour, would they have lost the election? Hardly. The fact the U.S. supported President Tsai and her party was an overwhelming advantage, as was China alienating Taiwan’s voters with its harsh statements and actions, which were further exacerbated with anti-China protests in Hong Kong. Both were critical factors. Finally, the KMT was very divided with its top leaders fighting among themselves.
Written by John F. Copper. Nearing the half-year point in her second term as president it is fitting to ask: how is President Tsai faring? It is a good time for a report card. On January 11, President Tsai won a resounding re-election victory over her KMT opponent Han Kuo-yu, the Mayor of Kaohsiung. Her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), also secured a majority in the concurrent legislative vote, though it was not as impressive as Tsai’s win
Written by John F. Copper. In 1990 when I published the first edition of Taiwan: Nation-State or Province?, friends and colleagues asked me why I wrote this book and the reason I chose such a title. I replied that a publisher, Westview Press, asked me if I could pen a book on Taiwan that assessed its unusual status in the world community, it being a possible trigger to an East-West conflict, and also a work that might serve professors looking for a reliable source on Taiwan they could teach from. The book sold well and five years later the publisher asked for an updated edition, to which I obliged.
Written by John F. Copper. The United States has long (since World War II) played a critical role in Taiwan’s politics, including its elections. The reason is apparent: in 1950 President Truman sent the 7th Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to block Mao’s plan to invade the island; he saved Taiwan. America has served as Taiwan’s guardian ever since. Today China’s military could “liberate” Taiwan and make it part of China probably in a few hours if the US declined to intervene.
Written by John F. Copper. One month is still sufficient time for certain conditions to change. Members of the faux alliance cited above, Gou, Ko and Wang, might individually or as a group shift their stances to sincerely support Han’s campaign. This move would considerably bolster Han’s image and his voter support. An end to the protest movement in Hong Kong would have a similar affect, as Tsai’s campaign has capitalised on associated anti-China sentiment in Taiwan. Han’s campaign could also benefit if the US and China reach a trade deal agreement and consequently the US downgrades its happy stance towards Taiwan.
Written by John F. Copper. In July, Taiwan’s two main political parties, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Nationalist Party (Kuomintang or KMT), held primaries to select their presidential candidates for the coming election. President Tsai Ing-wen won for the DPP. Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu will represent the KMT. At that juncture, pundits opined that January 11, 2020 would be a seminal event or “election of all times”. They said that the prevailing issue and one that cleaves Taiwan’s soul in half is independence versus unification. Clearly the two candidates mirrored the two sides of this seeming irreconcilable difference.
Written by John F. Copper. Could it be that President Tsai’s favourable image improved so dramatically from January to June? It is hard to believe that it did.
Did the DPP leadership manipulate the polls to favor President Tsai? That seems so. Taiwan had never experienced a standing president being challenged in a primary election for a party’s nomination. It would have been traumatic for the party if William Lai had been chosen. Also, his nomination would have imperiled relations with China and the United States.
Written by John F. Copper. But the facts also say that Lee did not adopt a policy of making China a pariah or isolating and punishing China for the events of June 1989. In fact, Taiwan’s relations with China did not get worse; they got better.