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March 23, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright March 23, 2008. Used by permission.


Ma Ying-jeou’s convincing victory in Taiwan’s presidential election shows that the politics of fear are no match for the politics of the pocketbook. While the sight of four KMT legislators trying to force their way into the DPP campaign headquarters raised the specter of a return to the dreaded days of the White Terror, a majority of voters seem to have been convinced by the slew of apologies that followed, and assumed that Ma’s victory would end eight years of government gridlock that had contributed to Taiwan’s economic slowdown. While Ma’s hesitancy to explain whether he had formally renounced his green card might have caused some to wonder if he might jump ship in a crisis, most people do not appear to have considered this a legitimate issue in today’s hard times. And, while images of Chinese troops suppressing Tibetan uprisings brought back bitter memories of the 228 Incident (see my previous blogpost), voters appear to have reasoned that the benefits of KMT rule far outweighed any risk of seeing the PLA marching through the streets of Taipei in the future.

For his part, Frank Hsieh and his allies proved unable to overcome disappointment with DPP rule, while corruption scandals contributed to a “throw the bums out” mentality. The DPP may also have engaged in a bit too much negative campaigning against Ma and his family, while not placing enough emphasis on the substantial achievements made while in power (including the completion of the High Speed Railway, the reform of the banking system, etc.) as well as their vision for Taiwan’s future.