Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, there has been a transformation in Taiwan’s trade and investment patterns. In that year, Taiwan’s dominant trade partners were still the United States and Japan, while trade and investment with China remained outlawed and only limited indirect flows were possible. It was not until 1987 that the Taiwanese were permitted to visit China, and it would be another two decades before there was genuine liberalization in the form of Chinese visitors coming to Taiwan for tourism and study.1 The shift towards increasing trade relations with China began in the early 1990s, although it was largely registered as trade with Hong Kong. Similarly, much of the initial China-bound Taiwanese investment was routed via Caribbean tax havens, such as the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands. However, between the mid-1990s and the fall of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government in 2008, a political stalemate featured prominently in cross-Strait relations, while rapid integration or convergence was the dominant trend in the economic sphere. The return to power of the Kuomintang (KMT) in 2008 resulted in much closer economic integration and warmer political relations. By the time Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with China in 2010, China (including Hong Kong) had become by far Taiwan’s leading trading partner and destination for outward investment. The fact that Taiwan still enjoys a healthy trade surplus with China is critical for the country’s capacity to maintain an overall balance of payments surplus. Over the last two decades, Taiwan’s governments have fluctuated between liberalizing and attempting to control levels of cross-Strait trade and investment. Key elements in its attempts to prevent trade dependence in the 1990s were the ‘go south’ (南向政策) policy that encouraged Taiwanese companies to invest in South East Asia rather than in China, and the ‘go slow, be patient’ (戒急用忍) guidelines that aimed to monitor and limit the level of Taiwanese investment in China. Such measures were primarily motivated by political concerns, such as expanding Taiwan’s international relations and also preventing China from exploiting trade dependence in its bid to achieve its ultimate goal of Chinese unification. Under both the DPP (2000-2008) and KMT (2008-present) administrations there has been a progressive trend towards trade and investment liberalization. Nevertheless, the question of whether the economic benefits of
cross-Strait economic integration outweigh the potential national security consequences has been a hotly debated political issue since Taiwan’s democratic transition. The centrality of the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement in the Sunflower social movement protests in 2014 reflects the fact that Taiwan’s society remains deeply divided on the issue of economic integration. This study considers the China impact on Taiwan’s electoral politics. The China impact is conceptualized here by looking at how growing economic integration has affected the way that Taiwan’s economic relations with China have been debated in electoral propaganda. The relationship has been two-way, since the increase in economic links has made cross-Strait trade an increasingly salient electoral issue and, at the same time, electoral debate has had a growing effect on how cross-Strait policy is developed on the Taiwan side. As with other policy areas, there has been a shift from top-down decision-making to a situation in which cross-Strait economic policy has to take into account public opinion and lobbying by societal actors.2 Using an approach that employs political communications data to analyse changing patterns in the economic relations debate has a number of advantages. First, election advertising represents one of the most accessible forms of political communication in Taiwan. Such messages are impossible to avoid because of the vast quantity of election advertising in newspapers, on television and online. In comparison, voter exposure to election policy white papers (generally the closest thing to manifestoes in the Taiwan context) or even to the presidential debates is far lower.3 Second, since political advertising tends to be designed for the ordinary voter, complex policy issues have to be simplified and more informal reader-/viewer-friendly language has to be employed. By adopting another perspective, we can distinguish between what Carmines and Stimson call ‘hard’ and ‘easy’ issues.4 They argue that easy issues tend to be symbolic, not requiring great factual knowledge, and are easily understood at gut level. Effective political advertising will always frame an issue as an easy issue. Third, as I have shown in a number of previous studies, political advertising can tell us much about the state of political competition.5 Content analysis of political advertisements can reveal the issues on which the parties are competing and whether the parties are adopting radical or moderate stances. This can contribute to the debate on whether parties are moving towards the centre or becoming polarized.6 Lastly, such a study can contribute to the arguments about the state of Taiwan’s democracy. Jean Grugel defines democracies as ‘political systems comprising institutions that translate citizens’ preferences into policy’.7 To achieve this condition, it is essential for parties to offer voters a clear picture of their positions and, ideally, there should be a degree of choice between the parties. Parties therefore also need to go beyond just adopting slogans; they have to try to educate the voters on their policy preferences as well as persuade them to vote accordingly. For the purposes of this chapter, I have examined the content of a range of political advertising data to find out how proponents and opponents of closer economic integration with China have tried to sell their ideas over the last 20
years. The two main data sources examined are TV election advertisements and newspaper election advertisements.8 I aim to show how the quantity and quality of issue emphasis has changed over time, using an approach based on time series analysis. In this era of growing economic ties between China and Taiwan, the central research questions are:
1 How have the parties altered their treatment of the cross-Strait economic integration issue in their propaganda?