Taiwan held presidential elections on January 11, 2020 to determine the course of its political and economic orientation for the next four years. The elections came at a crucial time—following six months of political unrest in Hong Kong that shifted public opinion on the island and revealed a deep divide within Taiwanese society.
The three candidates contesting the election reflected the polarization of voters. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen called for more social reforms and political as well as economic distance from China, while Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu, representing the more conservative element, built his platform on closer ties with Beijing, particularly in trade and investment. Candidate James Soong, a former member of the Kuomintang, anchored his agenda in a compromise between the DPP and the Kuomintang positions.
The issues of economic development and relations with China took center stage in the campaign. While Taiwan’s economy is relatively healthy, even benefitting from the ongoing US-China trade war, comparatively low salaries and high living costs in large urban areas remain significant challenges. China and its proxies also exerted significant influence on Taiwanese media, in an effort to drive voters away from Tsai Ing-wen and support Han Kuo-yu.
Tensions with Beijing remain with regard to economic and diplomatic independence, and the highly sensitive issue of sovereignty. Other key themes in the campaign included moral and cultural values, the environment, and the reliability of the media.
Global Voices ran a Civic Media Observatory investigation to study the themes, narratives, and emerging trends in the use of media to influence perceptions during the election campaign. Working with Taiwan’s Doublethink Lab, we spent six weeks tracking and documenting Taiwan’s media ecosystem. The dataset includes 81 media items, and explores 13 themes and 15 narrative frames. Explore the dataset.
Read the full report: Taiwan Elections 2019-2020 Investigation
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