Taiwan's Democratic Development: Reflections on the Ma Ying-jeou Era


Oksenberg Room, 3rd Floor, Encina Hall Central

Ma Ying-jeou KMT

The eight-year presidency of Ma Ying-jeou (2008-2016) in Taiwan left a complex legacy of political achievements, confrontations, and disappointments that defies easy characterization. It began with President Ma and the Kuomintang’s (KMT) commanding electoral victories in the 2008 elections, and ended with the KMT’s overwhelming loss to the resurgent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its leader Tsai Ing-wen in 2016.

It featured rapid conclusions to a broad set of agreements on cross-Strait cooperation with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But worries about closer ties with the PRC also triggered a popular backlash against growing mainland Chinese influence in Taiwan’s economy and culminated in a student-led occupation of the Legislative Yuan.

It coincided with contradictory trends in public opinion, including both the consolidation of a separate Taiwanese identity and support for the status quo in cross-Strait relations, as well as the increasing salience of divisions over social and environmental issues such as same-sex marriage and green energy at the same time as rising concerns about economic inequality.

It also marked a return to unified government after the acrimonious partisan fights of the Chen Shui-bian years, but long-standing intra-KMT divisions and the decentralized organization of the legislature continued to frustrate the administration, especially in President Ma’s second term.        

Finally, the Ma era produced no consensus about how to move beyond Taiwan’s developmental state legacies. Plans for domestic economic liberalization and greater integration into the global economy were only partially carried out, and the Ma administration ignored or struggled to address rising inequality, stagnant wages, increasing economic dependence on the PRC market, and a skewed tax system favoring investors and corporations over salaried workers.


Conference Agenda

The 11th Annual Conference on Taiwan Democracy will bring together scholars from Taiwan, the US, and Europe to consider these political achievements, confrontations, and disappointments in depth, and to assess the strengths and weaknesses of Taiwan’s democracy at the end of the Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency. Conference participants will discuss trends in public opinion, party politics and elections, cross-Strait relations, governance and media, and the performance of political institutions. The conference papers will be revised and included in an edited volume covering democratic practice during the Ma Ying-jeou era in Taiwan.

The conference is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending are requested to RSVP at the link above. This event is organized by the Taiwan Democracy Project in the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.


Thursday, March 9

9:15-10:45. Panel I. Public Opinion and Elections

  • Min-hua Huang, "Why Young Voters Abandoned the KMT"
  • Ching-hsin Yu, "Trends in National Identity, Partisanship, and Attitudes toward Cross-Strait Relations"
  • Yun-han Chu, discussant

11:00-12:45. Panel II. Party Politics

  • Austin Wang, "Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP: The Path Out of the Political Wilderness"
  • Nathan Batto, "The KMT as a Presidentialized Party: Party Leaders and Shifts in China Discourse"
  • Kharis Templeman, "The Disruption that Wasn't: How 2016 Changed the Taiwanese Party System"
  • Ching-hsin Yu, discussant

12:45-1:45. Lunch

1:45-3:30. Panel III. Economics, Security, and Cross-Strait Relations

  • Szu-yin Ho, "Ma Ying-jeou's Cross-Strait Policy: Ambitions, Constraints, Results" 
  • Lang Kao, "Cross-Strait Agreements and Taiwan's Executive-Legislative Relationship, 2008-2016"
  • Dean Chen, "In the Shadow of Great Power Rivalry: The KMT Administration's Relations with America, China, and Japan, 2008-2016"
  • Larry Diamond, discussant



Friday, March 10

9:15-10:45. Panel IV. Governance, Media, and Civil Society

  • Eric Yu, "The Changing Media Environment and Public Opinion"
  • Yun-han Chu and Yu-tzung Chang, "The Challenge of Governability in Taiwan"
  • Kharis Templeman, discussant

11:00-12:30. Panel V. Political Institutions

  • Shih-hao Huang, w/ Shing-yuan Sheng, "Decentralized Legislative Organization and Its Consequences for Policy-making in the Ma Ying-jeou Era"
  • Christian Goebel, "Special Prosecutors, Courts, and Other Accountability Institutions under Ma YIng-jeou"
  • TJ Pempel, discussant

12:30-1:30. Lunch