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  • Taiwan at a Tipping Point: The Democratic Progressive Party's Return to Power by John F. Copper
  • Zhenqing Zheng
Taiwan at a Tipping Point: The Democratic Progressive Party's Return to Power, by John F. Copper. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2018. 274 pp. US $100.00 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9781498569699.

For more than two decades, Taiwan's electoral politics has attracted much international academic attention for at least two reasons. One is that the election-centric democratization in Taiwan was relatively steady and fruitful and has been called an excellent model of the "Third Wave" of democratization; the second is Taiwan's major elections always have spillover effects on the relationship with mainland China, which often made the sensitive cross-Strait relationship a hot issue in world politics. This book is the latest study focusing on two major elections in 2014–2016 and their broad implications. The author, a veteran observer of Taiwan's politics, made use of his deep accumulation and meticulous observation in Taiwanese elections to elaborate how the 2014–2016 elections brought Taiwan to a tipping point in its domestic politics, economic development, the cross-Strait relationship, and the Asia-Pacific political situation as well.

Chapter one gives a brief history of Taiwan's election, focusing on Chen Shui-bian's administration for years during 2000–2008 and Ma Ying-jeou's administration during 2008–2016, with the purpose of presenting a background for understanding the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) return to power led by Tsai Ing-wen in 2016. The author's refined narrative presents a complicated while orderly political change in Taiwan and at least three analytic advantages are impressive: 1) instead of giving all credit for Taiwan's democratization to the Tangwai forces (黨外 力量) and the later DPP like many one-sided studies has put, the author noticed that the local autonomy and grassroots elections promoted in the Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) periods actually opened windows for later electoral politics in Taiwan; 2) when he affirms the breakthrough of democratization under Chen Shui-bian, he also points out the ill results of ethnic conflict and populism provoked by Chen; 3) he notes that Ma's achievement in economic recovery was concurrent with the divorce between Ma's administration and the public opinion in Taiwan. However, Tsai's rise in 2008–2012 was very important [End Page 233] to the political changes in the 2014 election, but the author has not explained enough here, nor has he carved out the rapid change of public opinion in Taiwan during this key period.

Part of chapter two was originally published in Maryland Series in Contemporary Asian Studies (2014, No. 4). This chapter presents a comprehensive retrospection and diagnostic assessment of the 2014 nine-in-one local election and its impact. The Pan-Green camp's handicaps and the Pan-Blue's travails are well recorded and analyzed. Tsai's reflection on the DPP's cross-Strait policy after her election defeat in 2012 and her dodging of destructive issues of the Chen family's corruption have more or less saved the DPP from the political trough. Besides, Tsai's appealing to younger generation and lower classes, echoing social movements, and promoting social welfare as well had helped her greatly to refurbish the stained image of the DPP. Meanwhile, the KMT as the ruling party was fouled by intra-party conflict between Ma and Wang Jin-ping, the speaker of the legislature, and by the incapable governance under Ma's administrative team as well. Moreover, the fusty old image of the KMT also kept away young voters, not to mention that the gloomy economic situation had depressed voters' support over the ruling party. Consequently, populism broke out and social movements challenged the KMT's governance. These analyses demonstrate why the DPP candidates become more favorable and ultimately won power in most of local counties and municipalities.

Chapter three analyzes the far-reaching 2016 presidential/legislative election, part of it also originally published in Maryland Series in Contemporary Asian Studies (2016, No. 1). In this chapter, the author introduces the basic background first, and then analyzes the four aspects of economy, domestic politics, the China...


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