Taiwanese re-elect President Ma Ying-jeou

Rob Schmitz Jan 15, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Voters in Taiwan went to the polls over the weekend and narrowly re-elected Ma Ying-jeou to a second term as president. And Ma’s victory is being seen as a a show of popular support for closer economic ties between Taiwan and China.

Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz has more from Shanghai.

Rob Schmitz: President Ma held a press conference after his victory. He summed up the priorities of Taiwanese voters, nervous about the local impact of a global economic downturn.

Economy first, politics later, Ma said. In the past four years, Ma Ying-jeou has helped Taiwan strengthen economic and political ties with China.

Chong Pin-Lin, professor of international affairs at Taiwan’s Tamkang University, says the Taiwanese voted for the man who could sustain that relationship.

 Chong Pin-Lin: Economic stability, this time, is real, and is a widely shared concern in this election.

 It’s a shared concern with the U.S. and Europe, too.

 Bruce Jacobs: High-level people in Washington and in Canberra and in Tokyo and in the European capitals want to have some peace and stability in the world.

 Monash University Professor Bruce Jacobs is an expert on Taiwan politics.

 Jacobs: Anything which keeps the Chinese happy I think is keeping the policy makers happy as well.

That’s because China is one of the few remaining countries with rapid economic growth. It owns more than a trillion dollars of U.S. debt, and U.S. companies are making more and more money there. Upsetting China could upset the bottom line.

Jacobs says Ma’s win may please Beijing, but it also serves as a reminder to an authoritarian state that democracy is alive and well in Taiwan. There was 74 percent voter turnout on Saturday, and nearly 200,000 overseas Taiwanese who live in China went home just to vote.

 Jacobs: When you actually have a democracy that’s functioning, like Taiwan — and there are only four consolidated democracies in all of Asia — this is something valuable. It’s something that should be encouraged.

It certainly wasn’t encouraged by Beijing. China’s government reportedly ordered mainland tour groups visiting Taiwan to stay inside their hotels on the day of election. That meant they didn’t get any ideas from watching democracy in action.

In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.





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