China Leadership Monitor

Shaping the Future—Part I: Domestic Developments in Taiwan

Monday, August 6, 2012

Three main themes emerged in Taiwan politics in the wake of President Ma Ying-jeou’s convincing reelection victory in January. First, in a highly contentious election that portended continuing intra-party strife, the DPP chose its new chairman, former premier Su Tseng-chang. Second, the DPP and KMT ended up in a total impasse in the LY over the issue of allowing U.S. beef into Taiwan until the relevant UN body provided a face-saving way out. And third, Ma experienced a rapid and steep decline in his public support rate, and difficulty even within his own party over his policies on American beef, utility rates, gasoline prices, and taxes. In addition, while Ma pushed hard on various aspects of Taiwan’s medium- and long-term external economic ties, the short-term international economic situation in major trading partners such as the EU, the United States, Japan, and even China remained uncertain, and forecasts for Taiwan’s economic growth this year sagged. Unsurprisingly, public opinion polls on the island reflected a sense of pessimism about the prospects for near-term recovery. This essay addresses those issues. Part II, to appear in the next issue of China Leadership Monitor, will discuss the Mainland’s reaction to Ma’s victory—and to his subsequent political problems—and to the DPP’s positioning, as well as the U.S. reaction and prospects for ties between Washington and Taipei in the period ahead.