Written by Gerrit van der Wees. On Saturday, 18 December 2021, the Taiwanese people went to the polls to vote on four referendums supported by the opposition KMT and opposed by the ruling DPP of President Tsai Ing-wen. The result was a sound defeat of all four proposals and a significant win for the policies of President Tsai. Below is an analysis of what happened.
Written by Mark Wenyi Lai. On December 18th, the Taiwanese people voted for four national referendum questions. The vote was initially scheduled on August 28th but was postponed due to the pandemic prevention policy. The four questions were as follows:
Referendums and Their Relationship to Taiwan’s Politics Written by Chia-hung Tsai. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the DPP is the import of the US pork referendum. However, the KMT argues that the referendum targets every pork product containing ractopamine, which is used to enable animals to grow larger and leaner. This drug is currently legal in the US but banned in Taiwan. Many polls show that most people agree to ban meat containing ractopamine, partly because food safety is a salient issue in Taiwan, especially after the gutter oil incidents in 2014. The DPP seems to frame this referendum as the plebiscite on whether Taiwan would ally with China or US.
Written by Charles K. S. Wu, Austin Horng-En Wang, Fan-Yu Chen, Yao-Yuan Yeh. Amidst the latest series of actions that draw China’s ire, the U.S. officially invited Taiwan to participate in an inaugural Summit for Democracy along with 109 states. Though the summit has several major themes for discussion on its agenda, including defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting human rights, many observers would agree that the convention is primarily symbolic and would not deliver substantial policy changes among the participants.
Written by John W. Tai. The Biden administration just concluded its first Summit for Democracy. Prior to the event, the world took notice that Taiwan was among the 111 countries invited, but much to China’s ire, the latter was not. This invitation is the latest in a series of moves that seems to demonstrate Washington’s determination to upgrade its ties with Taiwan. In this context, what should we make of Taiwan’s participation in President Biden’s signature event? What does it mean for U.S.-Taiwan relations?
Written by J. Michael Cole. Taiwan was among the more than 100 countries invited by the U.S. to participate in President Joe Biden’s “Summit for Democracies” held on December 9-10. Minister without portfolio and Taiwan’s “digital minister,” Audrey Tang, as well as Taiwan’s representative to the U.S., Hsiao Bi-khim, represented Taiwan at the Summit.
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. December 9 and 10, 2021 proved to be an interesting moment for Taiwan’s international space: on the one hand the country was invited to President Biden’s Summit for Democracy in Washington, where Digital Minister Audrey Tang gave a stellar performance in showcasing how Taiwan has enhanced its democracy in spite of the threats posed by China, and the hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. On the other hand, on December 9, 2021 it was announced that Nicaragua was switching its diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing, reducing the total number of formal diplomatic ties down to fourteen.
Written by David Pendery. Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has spoken of “the danger of a single story” and how such one-dimensional narratives can preclude us from understanding other peoples and nations, leading to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. These stories can stereotype others, and, Adichie argues, single stories often stem from confusion and a lack of familiarity with other peoples. At worst, these stories often have a malicious intent to suppress other groups, but they are also simply misconceptions and misjudgments. She says that our lives and cultures are composed of many overlapping stories.
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. 25 October 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly vote, which switched the Chinese representation in the UN from “the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek” to those representing the government in Beijing.
Written by Timothy S. Rich, Madelynn Einhorn, and Isabel Eliassen. Taiwan’s efforts at gender parity for electoral offices have resulted in a legislature where women currently hold 41.6% of seats. This leaves Taiwan ranked 12th globally, with only one Asian country (Timor-Leste) with similar rates. However, despite the success of President Tsai Ing-wen, the vast majority of executive offices (mayors and magistrates) are still held by men. Gender equality and the rise of women in national politics are common narratives when discussing Taiwanese politics.
Written by Ek-hong Ljavakaw Sia. Few bilateral relationships between any other two countries in the world can be as balanced, reciprocal, and complementary as the Taiwan-Australia partnership. Located in the southernmost and westernmost parts of the Pacific, Australia and Taiwan have many features in common: nearly the exact size of the population, an equally prosperous economy, a vibrant civil society, and a healthy democratic polity.
Written by Leon N. Kunz. In March 2014, participants in the Sunflower Movement peacefully occupied the main chamber of Taiwan’s parliament to block the ratification of a controversial trade agreement with the PRC that they viewed as a threat to Taiwanese democracy. In September of the same year, protesters involved in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement created street occupations to push for genuine democratic reform. In both cases, participants not merely occupied public space but claimed to engage in civil disobedience. According to the often-cited definition by liberal theorist John Rawls, civil disobedience is “a public, nonviolent, conscientious yet political act contrary to law usually done to bring about a change in the law or policies of the government.” To what extent did the occupations in Taiwan and Hong Kong conform to the dominant liberal civil disobedience script?