The China Menace on the Coronary heart of Taiwan’s Elections

published on July 3, 2020

how big a threat is China that's the

question on people's minds in Taiwan as

they vote for their new leaders welcome

back to China uncensored I'm Chris


I'm in Taipei the capital of the country

/ region Taiwan three days from now

Taiwan will be holding elections for its

president and legislature there are

election banners everywhere and you can

really feel the excitement in the air

one candidate even gave me a bar of soap

I guess he's really trying to clean up

politics but there's one messy issue

that's on every voters mind China i sat

down with Taiwan politics experts Levin

to find out more thanks for joining me

thanks so much for having me so the

Chinese Communist Party has vowed to

take over Taiwan with military force if

necessary how does that looming shadow

sort of affect Taiwanese politics so in

Taiwan when we think about a left-right

spectrum in the way that we think

left-right and say America it's very

different here so in America we think

more along the lines of tax wealth

redistribution welfare even social

issues like how you feel about things

like same-sex marriage etc in Taiwan

left-right is instead defined by

independence versus unification

so how Taiwanese people feel about

whether Taiwan ought to become more

sovereign and maybe its own independent

state or less sovereign and slowly

create ties and become a part of the PRC

so for Americans who don't really know

Taiwanese politics what are the main

parties and what are their views so the

two biggest parties in Taiwan are the

Democratic Progressive Party the DPP and

the Chinese Nationalist Party the KMT

now Taiwan was under martial law for 37

years during that time the KMT was the

only party in Taiwan it controlled all

aspects of life and other parties were

illegal but through a very long struggle

of democratization eventually a group

was able to actually consolidate their

kind of pro-democracy ng KMT

political circles and form what is now

known as the DPP the Democratic

Progressive Party now the DPP is vaguely

Pro Taiwan sovereignty a lot of people

describe the DPP as a pro-independence

party but in fact the DPP has not been

Pro independence for quite some time

especially since around the year 2000

the DPP has been adamantly Pro status

quo which is actually why the current

president sanguine was so controversial

because she was pushing it further than

the status quo no she actually is

explicitly Pro status quo and a lot of

deeper green Taiwanese political parties

don't like her because she's so Pro

status quo but I thought she wasn't she

like wasn't using like the one China

policy in speeches and I thought that

got people's no that doesn't really have

a big impact on whether or not their pro

status quo or not so Pro status quo

means that they don't want to change how

things are now okay

now whether or not she endorses the 92

consensus China's won China versus the

Americas when China these are these are

kind of separate issues from whether or

not she's actually pushing any sort of

actual change but she has it she's she

even just this last week has had to

actually emphasize to the tea that she

is a roc leader like specifically in

citing junghwa mingle as not any sort of

Chipman site to sort of pro taiwan

independence leaning anything which is

why when a lot of people say that

sighing when herself is pro-independence

it's just kind of not true because

nothing about her speech or the policy

she's pushes is really indicative that

she's probably dependence it's just very

Pro status quo and that's not a good

thing or a bad thing it's just more of a

reflection of how she actually falls

within Taiwan's spectrum now the KMT

falls on the more Pro unification side

now of course the KMT doesn't just say

we're Pro unification instead what they

do is their strategy is to try to sell

closer ties with China to the Taiwanese

public so a lot of their strategy is


we can become a more successful Taiwan

if we increase our ties with China and

of course they rely on a lot of much

more kind of essentialist cultural

traits by saying we would both speak

Chinese we both come from the same

ancestors therefore we should align with

them but for a lot of people in Taiwan

and those kind of appeals don't work

anymore because Taiwan has politically

and culturally developed so separately

from the PRC for a very very long time

so what is the feeling in Taiwan with

this sort of Independence or unification

stance because I would think a lot of I

don't understand why there would be

people talking about unification so and

important and this gets very complicated

so within these camps of independence

unification there is no black and white

one thing as independence and one thing

is unification so within the

independence camp what independence

means is hotly contested okay within the

unification camp

what unification means is also contested

so when we ask these kinds of survey

questions are you Pro independence or

Pro unification if that's all the

question asks that's not a very good

question what's a better question is

should Taiwan pursue more independence

if there is no chance of war with the

PRC because when you ask that question

independence goes up are you pro

independence if war with the PRC is

likely then it because down are you Pro

unification if all of time if all China

were to democratize now it might seem

overstated but if you're okay with

unification if China is also democratic

then those numbers also change well so

one of the ways the Chinese comics party

is presented a possible unification

scenario is the one country two systems'

scenario they have in Hong Kong which is

going very well but so a lot of people

have been saying like since people in

Taiwan I have seen how that has gone

down in Hong Kong that's had a big

influence in Taiwanese politics but do

you think there might be something else

going on what's what's going on so the

way that Hong Kong has impacted Taiwan's

election it most certainly has had an

impact but it has by no means really

defined this election the way that

people might think so what Hong Kong

presents to Taiwan is kind of the same

issue that Taiwan always talks about so

in Taiwan every election the issue of

Independence unification is the most

important political issue that's what

people vote on that's how people

evaluate their candidates and evaluate

their parties so in a world where the

Hong Kong protests never occurred Taiwan

would still be talking about unification

independence sovereignty one country two

systems' just as much but what Hong Kong

does offer to Taiwan is a very tangible

way of looking at unification so we

always think about unification one

country two systems' is in this very

abstract way in what Hong Kong gives

Taiwan is a very concrete way to say

that's unification and that's why we

shouldn't be for it now that appeal is

very powerful but for green voters

meaning green meaning Pro DPP Pro Taiwan

sovereignty voters so if you're Pro KMT

or you're pro China Hong Kong probably

isn't going to have that big of an

effect on how you're going to vote

really when the DPP uses Hong Kong

within their rhetorical strategy it's a

matter of appealing to young people but

it's also a matter of trying to get

their base of support to go out to vote

more than it is trying to convince say

moderate or pan blue voters to instead

vote for them how are these elections

different that the elections several

years ago in 2016 so a number of big

differences so in the 2014 sunflower

movement created this very dynamic

moment in Taiwanese contemporary history

in which a lot of new political parties

formed out of social activism formed and

entered formal politics in 2016 in the

last election in 2016 there was a lot of

hype around these new young progressive

Pro Taiwan parties because of the

sunflower movement and eight years of a

very unsuccessful mind joe prem term

president presidential term the kind of

sentiment towards the KMT was at an

all-time low meaning that people were

not excited to vote for the

in the last election and if you look at

the results the KMT lost heart the DPP

won overwhelmingly a lot of these

smaller parties had that space to grow

in the last election because people were

so confident that the DPP was going to

win a lot of voters voted for smaller

parties instead four years later we have

the rise of Hongwu we have the KMT

actually regaining a lot of their

popularity they're not nearly as

unpopular this year as they were four

years ago and a lot of this kind of

common hype around progressive Taiwanese

parties is just not there in the way

that it was four years ago part of that

is due to how these smaller parties have

performed but a larger part is how the

DPP has performed the last four years so

the DPP has had a majority and Taiwan's

legislature they've had the presidency

but a lot of their policies have kind of

been very lukewarm people aren't really

excited about how they've performed the

last four years and that's hurt their

popularity so this year people are kind

of just much more scared that the KMT

will actually do well and four years ago

people kind of knew they weren't going

to do well which kind of creates this

bigger sense of dread around the future

of Taiwanese politics there's a very

popular phrase in Mandarin that's been

going around called wongu olkhon meaning

and I think like the formal English

translation was like a sense of do of

impending doom about the country but

that's kind of how a lot of young people

have felt about this upcoming election

because of the kmt's kind of return to

popularity well so what's making people

go back to the KMT so in 2016 the KMT

ran a very bad campaign so the best

example is that they switched out their

presidential candidate like two months

before the election and that's bad that

was bad okay because it showed one a

total lack of support in their candidate

it kind of seemed that seemed that they

were kind of throwing in the towel two

months early they switched as a kind of

a Hail Mary way to kind of consolidate


within the party not only that but mine

Joe was not a particularly strong

president in his later years that a lot

of people were just generally unhappy

with the KMT so a lot of people either

didn't vote West a lot of KMT supporters

either didn't vote last election or they

voted for the DVP instead and a lot of

that kind of common sentiment just isn't

around anymore meanwhile a lot of KMT

voters have really mobilized and rallied

around humble you in a way that I think

we didn't necessarily expect in the last

year but the KMT is also when a party is

in opposition it's easier for them to

regain their support parties that are in

power almost overwhelmingly will hat

will be more criticized and have lower

levels of support than when they are in

opposition so there's also just kind of

a natural rebalancing so when the KMT

was in power they weren't popular when

they're in opposition their popularity

comes back up yeah well I know in this

election cycle it seems to me like China

is the key issue in in a lot of this but

it seems this year though I guess the

you call it the kind of pro-beijing KMT

has been focusing on calling tying wenge

now I'm just a simple American but I

probably don't understand Taiwanese

politics but why is that so it's it's

important to note that a lot of anti

same-sex sentiment within Taiwan

does not neatly map onto this Pro

unification Pro independent spectrum and

this is the difference between like the

American left and right exactly

so although the KMT tends to be more

anti same-sex equality than the DPP a

lot of the DPP is actually very against

same-sex marriage in fact one of the

most adamant anti-same-sex marriage

groups is a deep-green in a lot of anti

yet sanguine rhetoric that's come out

from Taiwanese groups actually comes

from deep green groups not from the KMT

so you might also be familiar with the

sanguine PhD scandal a there's a very

big push to try to say that sighing

one's PhD was fake and that she never

actually graduated from the London


economics now the London School of

Economics wrote a letter saying no her

PhD is real but there's this massive

conspiracy theory within Taiwan that

it's all fake Wow and this did not come

from the KMT this came from deep green

parties who do not like tying won and do

not want her to be leading the DPP so

clearly China wants something out of

this election in Taiwan what is that and

how are they going to go about getting

it so there's something very interesting

about this election unlike previous

elections as well is the role the CCP

has played so typically the CCP you will

in a very politically correct for the

PRC kind of way tacitly endorsed

wherever the KMT is running they have

not done that with hangul you now this

says a couple of things either they

don't have a lot of faith and huncle you

which i think is partially true Han has

shown that he's very difficult to

control for the KMT and that the PRC

might see that and say well we're not

really sure we want to there are cards

behind this guy at the same time the PRC

doesn't really need to formally say

anything about the KMT nearly as much

anymore because they found so many other

avenues with which to disrupt Taiwan's

democratic practices so we've seen a lot

of stories about disinformation

campaigns coming from the PRC fake news

being started and pushed by the farms in

the PRC and a lot of these reports show

that the PRC is actually using a number

of different strategies to try to

influence Taiwan's democracy rather than

just saying we support whoever the KMT

is running and what should we be looking

for in the election results so when we

think about this

suppose that rise of populism in Taiwan

as of now according to polls and polling

data is of course just poll so the

election it could be very different it

seems like saying one is going to win

but it's not just a matter of whether or

not she wins we should pay attention to

how much Hungary loses by because if

hung will you only loses by like five

percent then that sort of signals that

his populist appeal was still very

successful and

the odds of him just kind of

disappearing to the sideline are not

very likely he's probably going to try

to consolidate his support after the

election even if it's a small even if

it's a small loss now if he loses by a

lot o then maybe his populist appeal

wasn't as strong as we thought it was

and maybe Taiwan may be one of the few

democracies to overcome this challenge

of populism so we'll have to wait and

find out on Election Day Justin but

exactly what kind of how successful Hans

appeals have been and at the same time

I'm very curious about what voter

turnout will be so the DPP in psy has

invested so much of their time to try to

frame Hong Kong as part of its

sovereignty issue so appealing to young

people through the lens of Hong Kong a

lot of these mobilization campaigns have

been geared towards trying to get young

people to come out to vote and I'm very

curious what exactly the young person

voter turnout rate will be so like all

democracies young people vote the least

in Taiwan as well now that being said I

think the young person vote the younger

voting cohort rate in Taiwan was like

60% which for Americans in America like

that that's the low rate like wow but

for people in like the 80 plus age range

it's like over 80 percent voter turnout


so people here really love to vote which

is great but older cohorts tend to vote

way more than younger cohorts and for

anyone who's familiar with how younger

Taiwanese people feel about their

politics or political choices they

overwhelmingly do not like the KMT now

that's not a tacit endorsement of the

DPP a lot of young people aren't crazy

about the TPP but they most certainly

don't like the KMT so if more young

people voted then the results of the

election would be drastically different

so I'm very curious how successful the

DPP's appeals to young voters will

actually be come election day and what

about the outcomes for the legislature

so the legislature is is a bit

complicated so so Taiwan has what's

called a mixed electoral system so

there's single-member districts so you

vote for the person from your district

but you also vote for whatever party you

like most there's a party list so it's a

kind of a mix of how Germany does their

politics with how

the US does their politics and currently

there's a lot of different polls that

show how people are going to vote for

which party right now it looks like the

KMT is going to get about 20% of the

party votes and the DVP about 30% with

still about twenty to thirty percent of

people undecided so that's gonna be a

big mystery and then you have these

smaller parties about five small parties

that are all competing for whatever

limited space that they can get now

within the the single-member districts

this is much more complicated and really

varies by area of course there's a lot

more contested seats than there were

last time I know another big difference

between last time and this time is the

DPP won a lot of seats that the KMT

normally wins because the KMT was so

unpopular but four years later because

the camp is not as in popular as it was

before a lot of these seats that the DPP

won last time will not be as easily held

this election so these are all things to

also be looking for well thank you so

much for joining me well thank you so




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