Since the 1990s, Taiwan has achieved an impressive democratisation that has made it one of the most vibrant democratic societies in Asia. Most of the existing research about Taiwan’s foreign policy and cross-strait relations neglects how Taiwan’s identity and role as a democratic and pluralistic state influences the island’s external relations. This article analyses how Taiwan’s achievements in the field of democracy and human rights affect Taiwan’s foreign policy and its identity in world politics, and why democracy and human rights are important for it and its external relations. The analysis uses role theory and the three roles of normative power, civilian power, and Global Good Samaritan.
The article analyses the rise and fall of the Kuomintang candidate in the 2020 Taiwanese presidential election, Han Kuo-yu. It examines how three leading Taiwanese newspapers, the China Times, the Liberty Times, and the United Daily News, have reported about him and his populist strategy and style. Han Kuo-yu is almost uniformly viewed as a populist due to his anti-elite discourse, self-styling as a common man, and use of simple and direct language. The analysis of Han Kuo-yu and the media coverage about him is based on three leading approaches to defining and understanding populism—the ‘ideational’, ‘political-strategic’, and ‘socio-cultural’ approaches—and academic definitions of populism that have been used and invented by scholars in Taiwan since the island’s democratisation in the 1990s.
Regional integration theory can explain past and present processes of cross-strait integration and disintegration. Historical institutionalism can analyse how the path dependence of the ‘One China policy’ shapes cross-strait relations until today and how fundamental changes can occur through critical junctures. Neofunctionalism can well explain the dynamics of economic integration through spillovers and spillbacks driven by transnational actors since the 1980s. Liberal intergovernmentalism can shed light on the bargaining processes and their outcomes during the negotiation of various cross-strait agreements under the Ma Ying-jeou administration. Postfunctionalism offers the best explanation for the central role that identity has played in cross-strait relations, in particular since 2014.
Diagnosing a gap in our knowledge on populist phenomena in East Asian democracies, especially the lack of attention paid to the region by comparative studies, the organisers of the online lecture series ‘Populism in East Asian Democracies’ (PinEAD) brought together small but substantial research on East Asia by inviting presentations by nine experts, three each on Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Their findings showed how different phenomena and actors analysed as populists in East Asian democracies are from those in Europe or the Americas. They also highlighted how heterogeneous the group of politicians referred to as ‘East Asian populists’ is. While, on an abstract level, most East Asian populists are similar, in that they appeal to voters discontented with the democratically elected ruling parties and executives and promise to govern in a way more favourable to ‘the people’, they do so in ways that differentiate them from the standard style of political campaigning and rhetoric in their respective country.