Taiwan Studies Programme Lecture: The 2016 Presidential Elections. New Wine in a New Bottle?

A18 Si Yuan Center, Jubilee Campus
Tuesday 19th April 2016 (16:00-18:00)

Dr Chun-Yi Lee (seminar coordinator) chun-yi.lee@nottingham.ac.uk

Mandy Felton (administrative support) mandy.felton@nottingham.ac.uk

The Taiwan Studies Programme is delighted to announce that Professor Jason Hu, of the Want Want Group and former Mayor of Taichung, based in Taiwan, will be presenting the 2015/16 series of Taiwan Studies lectures on "The 2016 Presidential Election in Taiwan: New Wine in A New Bottle?".

Speaker Biography

Dr Jason Hu (Hu Chih-Chiang) was born in Beijing in 1948, and was brought to Taiwan when he was six months old with his parents. He entered National Chengchi University (Taiwan) in 1966, majoring in Diplomacy, and graduated in 1970. Later, he undertook a graduate program in international relations at the University of South Carolina, USA from 1972-73 but unfortunately had to leave school owing to his father's failing health. After his father passed away, Dr Jason Hu decided to pursue his advanced studies in the UK where he first earned a MSc at the University of Southampton, then went on to Balliol College, University of Oxford, where he received his D.Phil. in International Relations in 1984.

Jason Hu returned to Taiwan in 1985 and taught Policy Studies at the Sun Yat-sen Institute in National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung. He entered public services in 1990 and quickly appointed as Director General for the Government Information Office (Minister of Information) and government spokesperson from 1991 to 1996, after which he was appointed Chief Representative of the country to the United States, de facto Taiwan Ambassador to US from June 1996 to October 1997. He then was called back to Taiwan to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1997 to 1999. Again, he took the urgent task to head the KMT’s campaign for the 2000 Presidential Election of which the then incumbent KMT lost to the DDP!

Dr Hu was then appointed Deputy Secretary–General of the KMT until 2001 when he decided return to his hometown Taichung to run for mayor. With a landslide victory, Dr Hu became Mayor of Taichung City that year and was later re-elected twice to become the longest serving mayor in Taiwan, between 2001 and 2014.  From April 2014 to February 2015, Dr Jason Hu also served as Vice Chairman of KMT.

After losing the mayoral election in 2014, he decided to accept the Want Want Group’ offer to become the group’s Vice Chairman. The Want Want Group is a multi-billion food industry firm in Taiwan and China and also the largest media group in Taiwan (with three newspapers and two TV stations).


The result of the January Presidential election in Taiwan was almost a foregone conclusion! Long before the balloting day, practically all polls showed that Chairperson Tsai of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would win. Still, certainty does not mean clarity. By now, about three months after the victory, Tsai has not yet unveiled what her new policy towards Mainland China would be, despite the anxiety on both sides of the Taiwan Straits keeps mounting.

Perhaps Beijing may not like to be described as "anxious" to wait for Tsai’s revelation. Repeatedly, before and after the election, Beijing let it be known that, come what may, Beijing will not change its current position. Interestingly, Tsai also claimed all along that her policy towards Beijing will not be too different from the present situation- that she will maintain the "status quo".

Politics can be very tricky in the cross- straits interaction. When the KMT was in power, Beijing and Taipei worked out a formula that they both agree to: "the 1992 Consensus", which means that both sides agree that there is one China and that "China" may have different meanings to each side. To be frank, this in effect means that Beijing would say that there is only one China, which is the People’s Republic of China. Taipei would say that we accept there is one China, and that is the Republic of China. Hence the "92 Consensus" is also known as "One China with two interpretations".

What carries in this expression is the fact that "Taiwan" as an independent state finds no room in it, but the DPP has never officially given up that "Independence" option. This is why, while maintaining the wish for "status quo", Tsai obviously and deliberately avoids facing the issue of "92 Consensus".

It is hard to keep everyone waiting. By the 20th of next month, when Tsai takes office, she is expected to clarify her position. Otherwise, there may be a de facto break-off of many of the exchange and cooperation programs between Taipei and Beijing. And Taiwan may suffer more than Beijing.

Tsai may find something to say, perhaps a softer tone that could show Beijing she has plenty of good will, so Beijing would agree to move on further. Even so, it would be a bumpy road ahead towards uncertainty. To be honest, even Tsai says what Beijing hopes she would say on 20th May, one could still not be sure of the near future on cross-straits relations.

A transition of Taipei-Beijing relations after eight years of KMT government has a great deal of implications. The new government of Tsai may not find it easy to open up a new chapter of relations with Mainland China. Many other issues such as domestic economic development, US-Taiwan relations, Taiwan’s role in the South China Sea dispute, Taipei’s diplomatic struggle in the international arena are all still critical challenges ahead!

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