Written by Sam Robbins. Taiwanese politics has been digital as long as it has been democratic. Taiwan’s first direct presidential election in 1996 was hotly debated on popular BBS systems of the time. More recent elections have been fought on blogs, PTT, facebook and elsewhere. Taiwanese politicians have always been looking for new methods to connect with voters and make themselves visible in an ever-changing digital landscape.
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 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. 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 Chun-yi Lee. On 11 January 2020, Taiwanese voters will head to the ballot box and elect their next president. This short essay will explain why we should pay attention to this election and will particularly focus on Taiwan’s receding populism. My observation is that populism follows on from economic anxiety—a phenomenon that is faced by most democracies in Europe and the United States. Taiwan is no exception, but in January, Taiwan’s populist candidate will probably not be victorious.
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 Lev Nachman. Since the protests began five months ago, Taiwan watchers have commonly attributed Tsai’s growing success and Han’s continued decline to the protests. But to what degree have the Hong Kong protests actually impacted domestic politics in Taiwan? What if the Hong Kong protests never happened? What would Tsai’s position be?
Written by J. Michael Cole. Despite the high polarization that characterizes Taiwanese politics, the country’s three-decade-long democratic history has, to its credit, witnessed near-universal respect for those ideals. The three transitions that have occurred since democratization — in 2000, 2008 and 2016 — have been peaceful; even the paper-thin re-election of Chen Shui-bian in 2004, during which some members of the opposition camp engaged in acts of violence, never came close to being regarded as illegitimate.
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 Scott E. Simon. In the 2018 municipal elections, when Han emerged from the side-lines to become Kaohsiung’s first KMT mayor since 1998, his support was strongest in Indigenous mountain districts. Although he won a relatively modest 53.87% of votes overall, he won 85% of eligible votes in Namasia District, 89% in Taoyuan, and 92% in Maolin. How can we explain the Indigenous zeal for Han?
Written by Gunter Schubert. Unlike many populist leaders, Han’s public speeches have not been xenophobic, nor has he polemicised against LGBTQ rights (though he has promised to undo recent legislation allowing same-sex marriage should he be elected president). Moreover, his support for the ‘1992 consensus’ sounds more opportunistic than driven by pan-Chinese nationalism and his commitment to cross-Strait economic exchange does not prove that he supports ‘unification’ or wants to cosy up to the Chinese Communist Party.