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Quo vadis, Taiwan?

This is the final version of my project “Quo vadis, Taiwan?”. I am reasonably satisfied with it, even if there of course always remain things to be done. Here is the abstract:

This paper is a study of the presidential election and the coinciding referendum on United Nations membership, held in Taiwan on 22nd March 2008. Two questions lie at the heart of the study: “What were the alternatives for voters on 22nd March?” and “In what ways were the ballot-casting on 22nd March important?”

In order to answer these questions, Taiwanese history is presented briefly, with heavy focus on recent times leading up to the election and to the referendum. To summarise, the alternatives were the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), lead by Frank Hsieh, and the Kuomintang (KMT), lead by Ma Ying-jeou. Both parties were prepared to lead Taiwan closer to China to a higher degree than the incumbent president, Chen Shui-bian, but differed in how far and how fast such a change in policy ought to be pursued.

The alternatives can also be said to be either pragmatic, focusing on economy (KMT); or ideological, focusing on Taiwan’s rights to international acknowledgement (DPP). The presidential election seems to have been more important than the referendum on United Nations membership. The referendum put two questions to the voters. The first, initiated by DPP, asked if Taiwan should apply to the United Nations under the name of Taiwan (done once before and was blocked by China). The second was initiated by KMT as a counter-manoeuvre, and asked if Taiwan should apply to the United Nations under any name (since the early 1990s, applications under the official name Republic of China have been blocked annually by China).

The referendum is deemed to have little practical effect, except to stir up agitation in Beijing and further isolate Taiwan from the international community by presenting her internationally as trying to change the status quo which is at present a safeguard for peace in the area.

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