The “Independence versus Unification” Issue in Taiwan`s

Department of Journalism Studies
The “Independence and Unification” Issue
in Taiwan’s Presidential Elections
Ke Du
Email: [email protected]
Political and Media Reform in Democratising Taiwan
1945, the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) retreated from China mainland.
In Taiwan, the supreme leader and director-general of the KMT, Chiang
Kai-shek, established an authoritarian regime
Martial law.
1987, Chiang Ching-kuo, opened the political market and revoked the
Martial law.
Since the 1990s
The political domination of the KMT was ended
the rise of opposition voices: the DPP.
By 2003, there were 4 significant political parties operating in Taiwan:
the KMT, the DPP, the People First Party (PFP) and the Taiwan
Solidarity Union (TSU). However, the KMT and DPP are two major
competing political forces.
Political forces in this island
• the “Pan-Green Coalition” and the “Pan-Blue Coalition”.
Significant distinction lies in their positions on the independence-unification
issue (Rigger, 2000; Niou, 2005; Alagappa, 2001).
• The Pan-Green Coalition :
the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU),
and the minor Taiwan Independence Party (TAIP). This coalition favours
Taiwan independence over Chinese
reunification. The name comes from the colours of the DPP.
• The Pan-Blue Coalition : the KMT, the NP, and the PFP. This coalition
was associated with Chinese unification. The name blue comes from
colours of the KMT.
Political and Media Reform in Democratising Taiwan
a distinct phenomenon
• Chinese and Taiwanese cultures have common roots (Li, 2005); however,
this commonality has been politically separated in the last century.
• differentiations of demographic groups, which are also associated with
different political positions.
• It is shown that from 1996 to 2008, emphasises on the independenceunification issue have been centred on ethnic identity, national identity and
cross-strait relations (Huang, 2005; Hsieh, 2005; Rigger, 2000; Schubert,
2004; Tzeng, 2000).
• Considerable political reform and the open-up of the media have provided
the Taiwanese with more options to devote their support.
The Change of Taiwan’s Media Landscape
• 1949, Martial Law.
Political control of the media remained firm and resolute so as to suppress
political dissidents. Taiwan’s martial law period is from May 19, 1949 to
July 15, 1987 (Chou and Nathan 1987; Rawnsley and Rawnsley 1998).
• government censorship declined and had largely disappeared by the mid1990s (Fell 2005: 882), and a rapid proliferation of legal media.
– newspaper industry
– national television stations
– since 1991, restrictions on election campaigns were lifted.
• fiercer party competition aggravated domestic confrontation between
supporters of different camps, and ideological confrontations have tended
to be quite evident through different parties’ diverse constructions of issues
in elections: whether questing for reunification with China or gaining
Democratic Elections
• 1996, first direct election of president: the KMT
• 2000, the first alteration of political power: the
• 2004, the DPP’s second triumph
• 2008, the second alteration of ruling political
party: the KMT
The Focus of this Study
• The issue of independence versus unification has turned out to be
increasingly salient since Taiwan’s progress towards democratisation.
• In particular, major political parties’ shifting principles regarding this issue
in presidential elections indicate a complex dynamics of Taiwan’s electoral
• On the one hand, the prevailing campaign appeals concerning
“independence versus unification” suggest that political parties have put
significant emphasis on this issue. On the other hand, it is evident that the
configurations of using this issue by political parties have tended to evolve
in the past elections.
• Thus, this requires further understanding of how different aspects of the
independence-unification issue have been emphasised and how this has
evolved in importance in Taiwan’s political and media contexts.
Time Period of the Research
• This project intends to examine the independence–unification
issue by studying Four significant elections during Taiwan’s
process of democratisation: 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.
The four presidential election s have been called the most
important events in Taiwan’s democratic history.
to be to
be addressed
in thisinThesis
this Thesis
• Firstly, it is concerned with how appeals regarding the issue of
independence–unification were shaped and communicated in parties’
presidential elections campaigns:
• Secondly, this project also intends to generate knowledge of the
relationship between political parties, the media and the public regarding
the independence-unification issue in Taiwan’s democratisation process. It
would be interesting to find that:
• Furthermore, this study examines whether political parties’ exploitation of
independence–unification issue in campaigns has direct link to the public’s
concept and voting behaviour. This will be examined in terms of how
public opinion poll reflected voter’s corresponding reactions.
This research of the independence-unification issue
– incorporates three dimensions: ethnic, national identity and China relationship.
– makes a clearer distinction between different time periods
– provides an explicit comparison of the content of issue emphasis or change.
This study also investigate party’s evolving attitudes, their use of this issue in
campaigns, media’s report of their claims and the equally important rationale
– examines the media’s coverage regarding parties’ use of independenceunification issue in elections, which could facilitate the researcher to explore
wider influence of this issue upon the society.
– In general, it would be interesting to probe whether parties in Taiwan has been
stressing identity, competing on the independence-unification issue, and remain
clearly differentiated.
In-depth research into presidential campaigns, media materials and political
– provide abundant evidence to discuss phenomenon and the underlying causes.
– predict a possible future for the island’s identity politics and cross-strait
relations in terms of the evolving nature of independence-unification issue.
– stimulate much further discussion on the topic of what the issue’s possible
effects on China-Taiwan relations, cross-Strait stability.