Written By Wen-Ti Sung. Taiwan hosted its quadrennial presidential and legislative elections on 11 January 2020. Shaping the contours of these critical elections is first and foremost the impending US-China strategic rivalry, as manifested in the Hong Kong crisis and the resultant prioritisation of national security above all other campaign issues on the part of the Taiwanese electorate.
Written by Joseph Bosco. The question now is how Beijing will respond to the Taiwan election results. Will it finally accept the reality that the people of Taiwan are so committed to their own democratic identity that they are “permanently separated politically” from China, as Richard Nixon belatedly observed two decades after his fateful opening to China?
Written by Mark Wenyi Lai. Young Taiwanese have every right to distance with China and to protect Taiwan’s achievement of democracy, independence, and prosperity. But they do need to figure out what great vision they are pursuing, what change they seek after this predictable and over-praised election.
Written by Gerrit van der Wees. Tsai’s overwhelming victory represents a tremendous comeback, as her popularity was at an all-time low just one year ago after the disastrous local elections of November 2018. The KMT made major gains in the 218 races for county magistrates and city mayors, including the race for Kaohsiung mayor which Han Kuo-yu won.
Written by Timothy S. Rich and Madelynn Einhorn. Taiwan’s 2020 election was its first with immigration as a salient issue. The country’s immigration challenges are not unlike those in other developed nations, where the demand for immigrant workers faces a domestic backlash. Meanwhile, immigrant workers, predominantly from Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, increasingly have been more vocal about concerns of unfair treatment, including protesting labour conditions and the broker system for employment.
Written by Po Lin. These three challenges, the collapse of a populist structure, human rights issues in the PRC, and the systematic changes in the international system all impacted Han Kuo-yu’s presidential campaign. These reasons explain why Han will be swamped in the trench fight during this presidential campaign. Han’s rise was unexpected and the outcome of his current political journey will be revealed on 11 January. The result of ROC’s presidential election will influence the stability of the region and the US’s Asia-Pacific grand strategy.
Written by Mei-chuan Wei. Han’s campaign strategies were ‘unconventional’, especially given his position as the KMT candidate. For example, his rhetoric intentionally appeals to ‘common folks’ (shumin), the majority of whom are working class people and have been the main social base of the DPP’s political support. Han’s anti-elitist position was also considered unusual, for although the DPP is generally seen as increasingly elitist, the KMT has always been perceived to be the elitist party.
Written by Jeremy Huai-Che Chiang. Tsai and the DPP currently see China as a destabiliser not only in cross-Strait relations, but also the global order. Tsai, however, has still stuck to her policy of maintaining the status quo. Besides diversifying the country’s economic networks through the New Southbound Policy, Tsai’s administration has also built ties with like-minded democracies such as the US, EU and its member states, Japan and Australia. These efforts help build international support for Taiwan’s continued autonomy.
Written by Jeremy Huai-Che Chiang. The KMT is tied to the idea that peace with China is the only way out for Taiwan, and should be maintained despite its heavy political costs. This has led them to avoid openly refuting Xi’s infringement of the “1992 Consensus” in January 2019, instead placing significant focus on the domestic opinion front against it being associated with Beijing’s framework. For Han and many in the KMT, China is a non-issue, and putting too much constraints on this will only cost Taiwan’s future. Economic ties with China are crucial and necessary.
Written by J. Michael Cole. The Kuomintang (KMT) began 2019 a seemingly reinvigorated party following its successes in the previous November’s nationwide local elections. Epitomising this new energy was Han Kuo-yu, the candidate who had scored an unexpected victory against his opponent from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Kaohsiung, Chen Chi-mai. No sooner had Han assumed his seat as mayor of the southern port city than the “wave” that brought him into office elevated him to even greater heights.
Written by Ann Heylen. Taiwan presidential election campaigning would be incomplete without language controversies. On 3 November during her Taichung ‘Chia-fen lectures’, Lee Chia-fen, spouse of KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu, spoke up in support of her husband’s vision of educational policy. Here we will examine some of the responses to these statements.
Written by Daniel Davis. In next year’s legislative elections both the KMT and DPP are hoping to secure a majority, but after the shock results of 2018 and the growing number of small parties, every seat seems to be contested. The seats held by indigenous legislators, traditionally seen as iron votes for the KMT and pan-blue parties, have also become an open contest and could play a pivotal role in the outcome of the elections.