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 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 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 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 Corey Bell.
The 2019 Yushan Forum, hosted earlier this month by the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation, lived up to its hype as a major forum on Asian trade and security. In a major coup, this year’s programme succeeded in attracting a number of prominent speakers, including Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who delivered the event’s opening address, her Vice President Chen Chien-jen, India’s former foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, and Sandra Oudkirk, the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
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 Gerrit van der Wees. The Hong Kong protests also constituted a wake-up call for the people in Taiwan along the lines of “Today’s Hong Kong, Tomorrow’s Taiwan.” The erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong today is a clear example of what could happen in Taiwan tomorrow if Chinese pressure, intimidation and influence operations are allowed to run their course.
Written by Joel Atkinson. With so much going on, it is a daunting task to read the tea leaves on Taiwan’s evolving role in the world. Still, there are reasons to be guardedly optimistic about Taiwan and its future. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the sources of this optimism are not friends of Taiwan’s hard-won liberal democracy—Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.