Ma Ying-jeou (pronounced Ma ING-je-o) was president of Taiwan from 2008 to 2016. After his inauguration to his first term in 2008, Michael Schuman wrote in Time, “Ma Ying-jeou is one of those rare politicians who have an opportunity to shape the destiny not only of their own nation but also of an entire region. In March elections, the charismatic Ma, 57, won Taiwan's presidential election on a message of hope that could defuse his country's nearly six-decade conflict with China and put to rest one of the last vestiges of the cold war in Asia. [Source: Michael Schuman, Time, May 12, 2008]

“Ma, a Harvard Law School graduate, is proposing that China and Taiwan set aside the ideological differences at the heart of their conflict and engage in a sweeping program of economic and cultural exchanges. The heightened traffic of people and money would, he argues, strengthen ties between the two countries, boost their economies and reduce the risk of war However, as with any reformer, the challenges facing Ma in his quest are as imposing as the goal he is seeking to achieve. Though Beijing appears willing to cooperate in Ma's effort, it is hard to know how far the Chinese leadership is willing to go on issues it considers highly sensitive. Many people in Taiwan are also fearful that gargantuan China will end up absorbing their tiny island if ties become too close. Ma, though, is focused on the opportunities. "It is going to be a win-win situation," he predicts.”

Ma is also the Chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT). He has having served in that role since 2005, stepping down for a period between 2007 and 2009, when he fought corruption charges, Previous roles include Justice Minister (1993–96) and Mayor of Taipei (1998-2006). Ma first won the presidency by 58.45 percent of the popular vote in the presidential election of 2008, and was re-elected in 2012 with 51.6 percent of the vote. He was sworn into office as president on 20 May 2008, and sworn in as the Chairman of the Kuomintang on 17 October 2009. [Source: Wikipedia]

AFP reported: Ma Ying-jeou is a graft-busting former justice minister with a Harvard law degree who says he never had ambitions for the job until three years” before he took office. “Born in Hong Kong, the son of a party official who fled China’s communists over half a century ago, he has promised to mend fractured relations with the mainland and revitalise Taiwan’s sluggish economy. His presidency has restored the Kuomintang (KMT) to power after eight years under the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party of Chen Shui-bian. [Source: AFP, May 21, 2008]

“It could all have been so different. “I’m not that ambitious,” Ma told AFP. “People tend to say I wanted to become president when I was small. That’s not the case. I wanted to become a locomotive driver. “I decided to run for president only about three years ago when I saw the crisis of the current government. I had to move and I had to move quickly.” Victory came when Ma trounced the DPP’s Frank Hsieh in the March 22 vote, despite accusations he would sell out to China. Now he is Taiwan’s third democratically elected president. He says that while he favors friendlier ties with China, which has become Taiwan’s biggest trading partner and largest export market, he will not debate reunification in any meetings with Beijing’s leaders.”

Early Life of Ma Ying-jeou

Ma was born July in 1950 in Kowloon, Hong Kong — then under British rule — after his father, who was a middle-ranking KMT official, fled China. They moved to Taiwan a year later where, he recalled, his mother taught him to read the Zuo Zhuan, or Chronicle of Zuo, a seminal — and complex — early Chinese work of narrative history. “That was pretty tough for a seven-year-old kid... but I just wrote every word from the book trying to memorize that,” he told AFP. “That helped me immensely. It helped me not only with my Chinese, but also with traditional philosophy.” Much later he went to Harvard where he studied for a law degree, and it was from there that he was summoned home by his family. [Source: AFP, May 21, 2008 ]

Ma Ying-jeou is of Hakka ancestry. His family descended from the Han Dynasty General Ma Yuan and Three Kingdoms era General Ma Chao originating from Hunan Province. In a family of five children, Ma was the only son. Ma earned his LL.B. from National Taiwan University in 1972. He pursued further studies in the United States, first earning an LL.M. from New York University Law School in 1976 and then an S.J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1981. After receiving his LL.M., Ma worked as an associate for a Wall Street law firm in New York and as a legal consultant for a major bank in Massachusetts in the US before completing his doctoral studies. In 1981, Ma returned to Taiwan and started working for President Chiang Ching-kuo. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Keith Bradsher wrote in the New York Times, “Growing up in Taiwan as the only boy among five children, Ma Ying-jeou bore the weight of his father's expectations. His father, a champion runner in high school and college, took him on long runs during his late teens after initially viewing his son as too lazy to achieve athletic success. Determined that his son should be a broad-minded gentleman with a sense of national purpose, the elder Ma demanded that his son study the Chinese classics and spend extra hours after school every day mastering Chinese calligraphy. Out of that upbringing came a fiercely determined man who sleeps five hours a night, jogs regularly at dawn — and on Saturday won the presidency of Taiwan with a broad mandate to negotiate closer relations with mainland China. "Although at the time I felt very much — well, sometimes — bothered, looking back I appreciate his role," Ma said in an interview Sunday, particularly recalling the many evenings he spent practicing brush strokes. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, March 24, 2008 *]

Ma is married to Christine Chow (Chow Mei-ching), who is a lawyer and at the time Ma was elected president in 2008 worked for a government-controlled Taiwanese bank. At that time the New York Times reported she “takes pride in riding the bus to work every day.” The couple has two daughters. Lesley (Ma Wei-chung), was born in 1981 in New York when Ma was attending Harvard. She completed her undergraduate studies in life sciences at Harvard University and then her graduate studies at New York University. Ma's younger daughter is Kelly (Ma Yuan-chung), who was born in Taiwan and completed her undergraduate studies at Brown University in Rhode Island. Ma and his wife sponsor children of low-income families in El Salvador through World Vision. On an official trip to Central America in June 2009, Mrs. Ma was able to meet with one of her sponsored children, an 11-year-old boy in San Salvador. + *\

Controversy Over Ma Ying-jeou’s Origin and Birth

Ma’s father is native of southern China. Ma himself speaks fluent English and Mandarin is his native tongue. He speaks Taiwanese with a strong accent. In response to allegations that his Taiwanese credentials are lacking because be was born in Hong Kong to a mainland family, Ma said, “"I was biologically conceived in Taiwan, although I was born in Hong Kong, so technically I was made in Taiwan.”

On 11 December 2008, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chai Trong-rong called a press conference and produced a document that alleges Ma's birthplace to be contrary to what is officially reported. On this document, the birth certificate for one of Ma's daughters, Ma fills out "Shengchin" [sic] as his own birthplace, contradictory to his officially-reported birthplace of "Hong Kong" (under British rule). Chai also noted that First Lady Christine Chow's birthplace was listed as "Nanking, China," even though she is listed as also being born in Hong Kong. +

Chai continues to charge that, since Ma was born after 1949 and in Shenzhen, he is legally a citizen of the People's Republic of China. Presidential Spokesperson Yu-chi Wang responded to Legislator Chai's charges by reaffirming that all information from the President's Office regarding the President's birth is accurate. Wang also informed that Ma, on his 11 December visit to Hong Kong, was able to obtain records of his birth at Kowloon's Kwong-Wah Hospital and Ma also keeps the original of his birth certificate issued by the Registrar General of Hong Kong, thereby confirming once again his birth in the former British colony instead of mainland China. Copies of Ma's birth certificate have also been previously shown to the public. Wang also tried to dispel rumors that Ma had received affirmative action in his applications to Jianguo High School and the National Taiwan University with an "overseas Chinese" status. For that, neither President Ma nor his critics was able to provide a definitive proof. The issue of affirmative action remains open. +

Political Career of Ma Ying-jeou

According to AFP: “His political career began in 1981 when he was an interpreter for Taiwan’s then president Chiang Ching-kuo, who was chairman of the KMT. From 1991 to 1993 he was vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top China policy-making body, before becoming justice minister. But his attempts to crack down on corruption irked key business leaders and their influential friends in the then-KMT government, costing him the justice ministry in 1996. He switched to teaching law at National Chengchi University before he was called upon by the party hierarchy in 1998 to run for mayor of Taipei against Chen Shui-bian, who had been in the job for four years already. Ma won the mayoral contest, but his rival went on to win the presidency in 2000 on a platform stressing Taiwan’s independent identity, ending the KMT’s 51-year rule of the island. Ma remained mayor until 2006 but — in what many analysts saw as a ploy by the DPP — was indicted for corruption, accused of misusing 11 million Taiwan dollars (330,000 US) in special expenses. He denied the allegations, insisting he handled the expenses just like any other civil servant, and was eventually cleared by the Supreme Court. [Source: AFP, May 21, 2008 ]

Ma Ying-jeou started working for President Chiang Ching-kuo as Deputy Director of the First Bureau of the Presidential Office and the President's English interpreter. Ma was later promoted to the chair of the Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission under the Executive Yuan at the age of 38, becoming the youngest cabinet member in the ROC government. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Ma was deputy secretary-general of the KMT from 1984 to 1988, also serving for a period as deputy of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), a cabinet-level body in charge of cross-straits relations. President Lee Teng-hui appointed him ROC Justice Minister in 1993. Ma was relieved of his post in 1996. His supporters claim that firing was caused by his efforts at fighting corruption among politicians and the police. He remained a supporter of the Kuomintang, rather than supporting the New Party formed by KMT supporters who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. Ma returned to academia and most people at the time believed his political career to have effectively ended. +

Ma Ying-jeou as Mayor of Taipei

In 1998, the KMT fielded Ma to challenge the then-incumbent Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who was seeking re-election. Despite Chen's public approval rating of over 80 percent,[citation needed] he was defeated. In the 2000 Presidential Election, Ma remained loyal to the KMT and supported its candidate, Lien Chan, over James Soong, who had bolted from the party and was running as an independent. The competition between Lien and Soong split the Pan-Blue vote and allowed his former rival Chen to win the presidential election with less than 50 percent of the popular vote. The election result, combined with other factors, incited a great deal of anger against Ma when he tried to dissuade discontented Lien and Soong supporters from protesting by appealing to them in his dual capacities as Taipei City mayor and a high-ranking KMT member. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Ma was able to repair the political damage and, in December 2002, became the leading figure in the KMT by easily winning reelection as mayor of Taipei with the support of 64 percent of Taipei voters while DPP challenger Lee Ying-yuan received 36 percent. His solid victory, especially in light of opposition from both President Chen and former President and KMT chairman Lee Teng-hui, led many to speculate about his chances as the KMT candidate for the 2004 presidential elections, although nothing came of it. Ma again dissuaded angry Pan-Blue supporters from protesting, following the very close re-election victory of President Chen in 2004 after the 3-19 shooting incident. Ma chose not to join in calls to challenge or contest the election. Ma also avoided associating himself with claims that the assassination was staged. +

Ma suffered some political damage as a result of the SARS epidemic in early 2003 and was criticized for not mobilizing the Taipei city government quickly enough and for keeping Chiu Shu-ti, the public health director, who was previously criticized for her lack of concern for the outbreak. Flooding in metropolitan Taipei in 2004 also led to public questioning of his leadership and caused Ma's approval rating to slide. +

During his time as Taipei's mayor, Ma had many conflicts with the central government over matters such as health insurance rates and control of the water supply during the drought. Ma also was implicated in a scandal of Taipei Bank stock releases in 2003. However, the case was dismissed after an investigation by the Taipei prosecutor. He was strongly criticized by the DPP for not allowing the ROC national flag to be flown along with a PRC flag during Asian Women's Football Championship held in Taipei. Ma responded that he was merely following Olympic protocol, which only officially recognizes the Chinese Taipei Olympic Flag and forbids ROC national flags from being shown in an Olympic Game Stadium. +

His initiatives in administering the city of Taipei include changing the transliterations of street names and the line and stations of the Taipei Metro to Hanyu Pinyin, as opposed to Tongyong Pinyin. Ma has expressed mild support for Chinese reunification and opposition to Taiwan independence. He opposed the 2004 referendum, which had been widely criticized by the U.S. and PRC. Nevertheless, his opposition to the Anti-Secession Law of the People's Republic of China, while other leaders of his party remained silent on the issue, led to him being banned from visiting Hong Kong to make a public speaking tour in 2005. He also criticized the PRC for the Tian'anmen crackdown. +

On his achievements in Taipei, David Lague wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “He proudly recounts how the outlay of more than $10 billion over six years will have increased the proportion of waste water piped away for treatment from 41 per cent to 82 per cent by the end of the year. Furthermore, he said, life expectancy in Taipei is this year expected to reach an island high of 80 years, the city subway carries 1.05 million people a day, a six-fold increase over 1997, and each Taipei resident now produces an average of 0.4 kilograms, or 0.9 pounds, of trash each day, sharply down from 1.12 kilograms when he was elected. [Source: David Lague, International Herald Tribune, July 10, 2006]

Ma Ying-Jeou Wins Taiwan 2008 Presidential Election by a Landslide

In March 2008, Ma Ying-jeou surged to a landslide victory in a presidential election dominated by concern over the economy and hopes for better ties with China. “This is a victory for people who hope for change and openness and reform,” he told his jubilant Kuomintang (KMT) supporters after trouncing ruling party chief Frank Hsieh by almost 17 percentage points. AFP reported: “Final official figures by the election commission showed that Ma won 58.45 percent of the vote, and Hsieh 41.55 percent. “Your voices are heard. People have the right to demand a better life. Only change can bring hope, only change can provide opportunities,” Ma said as his supporters partied with songs, dancing and firecrackers. At the same time, Hsieh conceded defeat in front of despondent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters at his own headquarters. “We accept defeat. It”s my own defeat, it”s not the defeat of the Taiwanese people. Please don”t cry for me,” he said. [Source: AFP, March 23, 2008]

Ma formally took office on May 20, 2008, when Chen stepped down after serving a maximum two terms. His vice president was Vincent C. Siew. Ma’s victory gave the KMT overall control of the nation, as they had also crushed the DPP in parliamentary elections in January on the back of economic malaise and weariness at the strained relations with China.

On election day, Benjamin Yeh of AFP wrote: “Under relentlessly grey skies and tight security, Taiwanese voters electing a new president said they wanted bread-and-butter change — and Tibet was too far away to matter. Many people rose early, queuing as soon as the polling stations opened at 8 a.m. to cast their ballot. Elderly people in wheelchairs or using walking sticks chatted easily to one another while waiting in line, while many younger voters appeared somber. Ma won a landslide but analysts said pro independence ruling party chief Frank Hsieh will likely have made some inroads by warning Taiwan under Chinese rule might end up like Tibet. [Source: Benjamin Yeh, AFP, March 23, 2008]

The slowing economy was a common concern. “The economy was terrible in the past eight years and I think whoever fails to perform well in office should be replaced,” said retired civil servant Yuan Hsin, 53. “Only change will bring hope,” he added, saying he hoped a new government would relax rules on trade ties with China to stimulate the economy. “I am afraid of not being able to land a job after graduation because the economy has been so bad,” said Angela Lin, a 20-year-old student.

Edward Cody wrote in the Washington Post, “ Taiwan's 17 million eligible voters also roundly defeated a referendum measure asking whether the government should apply for U.N. membership under the name Taiwan, a proposal sponsored by the independence-minded government of President Chen Shui-bian and condemned by the Bush administration as a futile provocation of the mainland. “The decisive votes signaled the end of an eight-year period in which many Taiwanese seemed to be swept up by Chen's pugnacious nationalism and emphasis on Taiwanese self-identity. AFP reported: China's military crackdown on Tibet in 2008 occurred just as Taiwanese preparing to vote in the 2008 presidential elections. Candidate Frank Hsieh warned that if Taiwan fell under Chinese rule it might end up like Tibet.[Source: AFP, March 20, 2008; [Source: Edward Cody, Washington Post, March 23, 2008]

In legislative elections in January 2008, Kuomintang (KMT) secured 72 percent of the seats in the 113-seat chamber, beating President Chen Shui-bian's party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Chen Shui-ban said he was "shamed" by the result and resigned as chairman of the DPP. The elections were seen as a barometer for the presidential poll in 22 March. With all the votes counted, the KMT secured 81 seats, Taiwan's election commission announced. The DPP got 27 seats (24 percent), while smaller parties won five seats. Taiwan's Poll Results: KMT — 81 seat; DPP — 27 seats; other parties — 5 seats. The BBC reported: “Under a new electoral system, the number of seats in Taiwan's new parliament has been cut from 225 to 113. The change was adopted in 2005 to reduce corruption and improve efficiency but observers say the new system may marginalise smaller parties in favour of the DPP and the KMT. A new voting system was also introduced whereby voters cast ballots for both a party and a particular candidate in their constituency. Seventy-three seats were contested by a total of 296 individual candidates representing 12 parties, while 34 seats were to be allocated on a party list system. A further six seats were reserved for ethnic minorities. [Source: BBC January 12, 2008]

Ma Ying-jeou’s Domestic Policy

In May 2008, a few days after Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated President of Taiwan, authorities reopened Chiang Kai-shek's mausoleum, which had been closed under Ma’s precessor Chen Shui-ban . Associated Press reported: “The then-ruling Democratic Progressive Party said the democratic island should stop honoring a dictator when it closed the mausoleum in December, 2007. Taoyuan Magistrate Eric Chu says he hopes controversy surrounding Chiang's legacy will end the reopening can help boost local tourism. There were periodic demonstrations throughout Ma’s tenure, mainly over his efforts to forge closer ties with Beijing.[Source: AP, May 31, 2008]

Ma’s administration was sharply criticized for sluggish response and poor handling of Typhoon Morakot disaster that struck island in early August, 2009. The worst typhoon to in half a century killed more than 600 people. According to the Asia Times: “Although local government officials were also at fault, Taiwanese people expected stronger leadership from the top, and had been disappointed by various top government ministries' and departments' blunders — including not sending out soldiers early enough, not evacuating people living in dangerous areas before the typhoon hit, and initially rejecting foreign aid.” [Source: Cindy Sui, Asia Times, December 8, 2009]

Reporting from Chishan in one of the areas hardest hit by the typhoon, Polly Hui of AFP wrote: Ma traveled “to a village where hundreds are feared to have died in mudslides, as his popularity sank to near-record lows due to his handling of Typhoon Morakot. Ma’s approval rating dropped to 29 percent in a poll for the United Daily News, while 46 percent of respondents said they had no confidence in the government's ability to handle reconstruction efforts. Ma and senior officials began a news conference on Tuesday by bowing in what he said was a symbolic apology to the Taiwanese people for not doing more immediately after Morakot slammed into the island on August 8. [Source: Polly Hui, AFP, August 18, 2009]

According to the Wall Street Journal: “President Ma's approval rating rose for most of 2010 after dropping precipitously following the government's bungled response to typhoon Morakot in 2009, Taiwan's most deadly on record. But it has been sliding since January 2011, falling to 32.9 percent according to an April poll from Taiwan's Global Views magazine.

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times in 2012, “As he nears the end of his first term, Ma Ying-jeou faces a litany of challenges that might sound familiar to Western politicians: stagnant wages, a growing wealth gap and steep housing prices that have frozen young urbanites out of the real estate market. His main opponent in this month’s elections has vowed to create well-paid jobs, 800,000 units of low-cost housing and more generous subsidies for retirees and farmers. But when voters go to the polls they will also be guided by their views on a separate, overwhelmingly important issue: whether this vibrantly democratic island of 23 million should speed, slow or halt its wary embrace of China. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 4, 2012 \~]

Taiwan's Economy Under Ma Ying-jeou

Under Chen, Ma’s predecessor, the Taiwanese economy expanded at a respectable 4 per cent but Ma and many of his supporters in the Taiwanese business community insisted that Taiwan could do much better with closer ties to the supercharged Chinese economy. "There is strong demand for more contact with the mainland," Ma said.

After Ma came into office in May 2008, the economy experienced its worst recession, with exports plunging and unemployment reaching a record high of over 6 percent, as the Lehman Brother global economic crisis began to take its toll. But as the crisis eased and Ma’s Beijing-friendly policies bore fruit Taiwan’s economy improved. Benefits of improved relations with China has included thousands of Chinese tourists who come each day and large amounts of purchases from Chinese procurement missions.

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, The economic benefits from Mr. Ma’s first term have been pronounced. A landmark trade agreement between the two sides removed tariffs on hundreds of products, helping to boost Taiwan’s exports to China to $115 billion in 2011, a 35 percent from 2009. Spending by mainland tourists has pumped $3 billion into the local economy. During Ma’s tenure Taiwanese exports and investment on the mainland have soared; at home, the local economy has been buoyed by more than 3 million mainland tourists who began arriving shortly after his inauguration. Those policies, and the wealth that flowed to exporters, helped solidify his support among business leaders and investors. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 14, 2012]

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth was 10.8 percent in 2010 but economic growth has not translated into wage increases for ordinary workers. And Taiwan's wealth gap has grown to historic highs, sparking widespread social resentments.

Ma Ying-jeou’ and Politics

John F. Copper wrote in the Taiwan Review, “ Pundits have long said that Ma is “too honest.” Indeed, because of his high standards of propriety, the KMT has had to disqualify some otherwise very good candidates from running for high office. In fact, the KMT has lost a number of local election races because they could not field strong candidates as a result of Ma’s strict principles on clean government. Though this arguably was bad for the party in the short run, Ma’s clean image played very well to the average citizen and especially to the young and the idealistic voter. Underscoring Ma’s honesty, during this campaign the public heard many news reports of venal politicians elsewhere in the world and were proud that a number of international groups released improved ratings for transparency and lower rates of corruption in Taiwan. [Source: John F. Copper, Taiwan Review, April 1, 2012. Copper is a Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He is the author of Taiwan: Nation-State or Province?, which is in its fifth edition, and Taiwan’s Democracy on Trial, which was published in 2010. =\=]

“Ma is also viewed as a scholar. The scholar-official class that ran China’s government historically, some say, is and should be gone. Others say Ma is not aggressive enough as a leader because of his scholarly bent. Yet the ideal of an intellectual leader survives in Taiwan. In fact, the voters in Taiwan as in many other countries have come to view as unattractive politicians who say what the polls tell them to say and otherwise seem empty-headed. =/=

The political fallout from the typhoon included the resignation of the island's defence minister and the cabinet secretary over mistakes committed during the response to the natural disaster. Defence Minister Chen Chao-min and Cabinet Secretary General Hsueh Hsiang-chuan, who is responsible for coordination between ministries, cited the slow emergency response when resigning, the official said.Acknowledging his government could have done more, Ma also defended its actions said he would not resign over the events. He said the torrential rain accompanying the typhoon made operations dangerous in the first few days — one rescue helicopter crashed, killing three — and that rescue operations only reached full strength after the rain ended.

KMT Politician Shot in the Face Before the 2010 Mayoral Elections

Lien Sheng-wen, a KMT politician also known as Sean Lien, was shot in the face as he spoke at a suburban Taipei rally in support of a Kuomintang candidate for city council. His father, Lien Chan, widely reported to be one of Taiwan’s wealthiest people, was Taiwan’s vice president from 1996 to 2000 and the party’s losing presidential candidate in 2004. The motive for the shooting on Friday was unknown. The Associated Press quoted a Taiwan television report as saying that a suspect apprehended by the police was nicknamed ‘horse face,’ suggesting a link to Taiwan criminal gangs. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, November 26, 2010]

The Taipei Times reported: Sean Lien was shot in the face when campaigning for a KMT Sinbei councilor candidate in Yonghe , Taipei County. He was rushed to the hospital and survived the accident. It is believed that the incident help prompted some swing voters with pan-blue leaning to give their votes to the KMT candidates, especially in Taipei City and Sinbei City, where the candidates from the two parties were fighting a neck-to-neck battle. Political analyst Ku Chung-hwa of National Chengchi University said the accident helped Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin and Sinbei mayor-elect Eric Chu win the battles against strong rivals, DPP Taipei mayoral candidate Su Tseng-chang and DPP Sinbei candidate Tsai Ing-wen, who threatened the KMT candidates throughout the election campaign with high support rates.

“A police official from Yung Ho, who asked not to be identified, said the suspect had 48 bullets in his possession when he was taken into custody. Taiwanese TV stations reported that the suspect is nicknamed "horse face," a sobriquet that would likely indicate his membership in one of Taiwan's criminal gangs. After the attack, President Ma Ying-jeou rushed to Taipei's National Taiwan University Hospital, where Lien was being treated. "Taiwan is a democracy," Ma told reporters there. "We will not tolerate such violence." Hospital spokeswoman Tan Ching-ting said Lien was conscious when he was brought to the facility just before 9 p.m. "His wounds are in his left part of his face and his right temple," she said. "He is now in surgery."

Ma Ying-jeou Wins Taiwan’s 2012 Presidential Elections

In January 2012, Ma Ying-jeou was elected to a second term in Taiwan’s fifth presidential contest since it emerged from single-party rule in 1996.. The poll was Taiwan’s first-ever combined presidential and legislative election. Ma and his running mate, then-Premier Wu Den-yih, of the Kuomintang (KMT), won the election with 51.6 percent of the vote. The Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen got 45.6 percent; the People First Party’s (PFP) James Soong and his vice presidential candidate got 2.8 percent. The KMT also won a clear majority in the Legislative Yuan, or the lawmaking body of government. The election had been expected to be tight but Ma won by a relatively comfortable margin of six percentage points. Soong had been expected to siphon off as much a tenth of the electorate from Mr. Ma, but that didn’t happen.

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, Ma “was re-elected by a comfortable margin, fending off a fierce challenge from his main rival, Tsai Ing-wen, who criticized his handling of the economy but also sought to exploit fears among voters that his conciliatory approach toward China was eroding the island’s sovereignty. A second term for Mr. Ma is likely to please Beijing, which has matched his enthusiasm for cross-strait rapprochement with a variety of economic and trade pacts. Those policies, and the wealth that flowed to exporters, helped solidify his support among business leaders and investors. More than 200,000 citizens who live and work in China returned home to vote, most of them taking the direct flights that Mr. Ma helped establish during his first year in office. Not surprisingly, many of the returnees were Ma supporters spurred by surveys that had showed him in a neck-and-neck bid for survival. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 14, 2012 /*]

According to Reuters: However, Ma’s victory was much reduced from the near 17-point margin he had over the DPP at the last election in 2008. The Nationalist Party also won a clear majority in parliament, which should give Ma a fillip in pushing through policy. The election commission said the Nationalists won 64 seats in the 113-member legislature, although that is also lower than the 81 seats they had in the outgoing house. “We will continue to let economic growth flourish, protect cross-strait peace and friendly relations to achieve more concrete results in cooperation in important areas,” said Lien Chan, the honorary chairman of the Nationalists. But in an acknowledgement of the reduced majority, he added: “We need to discuss thoroughly the criticism the voters have handed to us.” [Source: James Pomfret and Jonathan Standing, Reuters, January 14, 2012 |::|]

Jacobs wrote: “Much of the day-to-day campaign, however, focused on retail politics, with Ms. Tsai mining popular anxiety over the island’s slide from the heady 1990s, when reliably double-digit economic growth from high-tech manufacturing helped earn Taiwan a place among the so-called Asian Tigers. High expectations among Taiwan’s people partly explain widespread dissatisfaction that persists despite an unemployment rate of 4.28 percent. Many here blame Mr. Ma for stagnant wages and a growing wealth gap that has made housing unaffordable for millions of middle-class Taiwanese. /*\

Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party and a political moderate who supports economic cooperation with China, was the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate in the 2012 elections. The first woman to bid for Taiwan’s presidency, she beat out former Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang by a single percentage point in an island-wide phone poll that served as the DPP’s primary. Tsai like Ma is a former law academic. She holds a doctorate from the London School of Economics. According to Reuters, “she appeared unable to press home her charges that Ma had pursued his pro-China policy with little regard to rising costs of living and a widening income gap at home. She became president of Taiwan in 2016.

Ma Ying-jeou Second Term: Protests and KMT Scandals

In May 2012, Ma Ying-jeou was sworn in for his second and last four-year term as Taiwan’s president as the opposition rallied against utility hikes and beef imports from the United States. AFP reported: In his inaugural speech to hundreds of dignitaries from the island and abroad Ma, vowed to pursue free trade agreements with other countries and continue rapprochement policies with China. "We must step up the pace of liberalisation; there can be no further delay. Only if Taiwan opens up to the world will the world embrace Taiwan," he said, adding that the island would have to ditch its "protectionist mindset" and "revise outdated legislation". [Source: AFP, May 20, 2012]

“The start of Ma's second term was greeted with angry protests in which hundreds of demonstrators pelted eggs at a huge portrait of the head of state. Ma has come under fire over a recent series of moves including "double hikes" in fuel and electricity prices amid a slowing economy and rising inflation. His government's plan to allow imports of US beef treated with the growth drug ractopamine also triggered several protests by local farmers. Ma's popularity plunged to 19.5 percent, its lowest level in nearly three years according to a poll of 1,086 people released by Wealth Magazine last week.

In September 2013, William Wan wrote in the Washington Post, “A widening political scandal is threatening to split Taiwan’s ruling party and set back efforts to build closer economic ties with China. Allegations of influence peddling by Taiwanese politicians, driven in part by investigators’ wiretaps of one lawmaker’s cellphone conversations, have stirred fear and paranoia among some political leaders. “I’m sorry. It’s not safe to talk right now. We are being monitored,” said a political adviser within the Nationalist Party, whose leaders have both driven the investigation and been the ones most damaged by it. [Source: William Wan, Washington Post, September 12, 2013 ^*^]

“Taiwan’s justice minister has been forced out, and its high-profile legislative speaker has been expelled by his party. The fallout could have sweeping consequences for Taiwanese politics, weakening the already unpopular administration of President Ma Ying-jeou and giving a boost to the opposition party, which is much less friendly toward mainland China.^*^

“The dominoes began falling when Taiwan’s high court overturned lawmaker Ker Chien-ming’s guilty verdict on embezzlement charges. A special investigative unit within the Taiwanese Justice Department subsequently wiretapped Ker’s cellphone, and, according to prosecutors, recorded conversations in which legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng and Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu agreed to help Ker ensure that the overturned ruling stuck. Both Wang and Tseng have denied the charges of meddling, but Tseng has since stepped down, and Wang’s party membership was revoked Wednesday. Wang has vowed to fight his expulsion to keep his legislative position. ^*^

“At the heart of the growing rift is a long-simmering rivalry within the Nationalist Party between Ma, its chairman, and Wang, a party heavyweight who has held the speakership since 1999. Their rivalry dates to 2005, when both competed to lead the Nationalist Party, also called the Kuomintang. They butted heads again in 2008, competing for their party’s presidential nomination. “Ma called Wang’s alleged meddling in the court case “the most serious infringement in the history of Taiwan’s judiciary.” ^*^

Ma Ying-jeou’s Plan to Improve Ties with China

Almost immediately after he was first elected President in 2008 Ma Ying-jeou announced ambitious plans to revolutionize economic and security relations with China, aiming ultimately for a peace accord to end the hostility between Taiwan and China. Edward Cody wrote in the Washington Post, “Ebullient after a decisive victory in the March election, Ma predicted he could reach agreement with Beijing on a wide range of delicate issues because, unlike President Chen Shui-bian, he is willing to put aside the question of whether this self-ruled island should be considered an independent nation or a part of China. "The idea is to shelve the issue," he said. Relaxed but closely following his script, he seemed strikingly confident of his ability to move forward with Beijing on agreements covering direct airline flights, increased mainland tourism, commercial ties, confidence-building military arrangements and even a formal end to the state of hostility in effect since the defeated Chiang Kai-shek fled here in 1949 with his Nationalist followers — including Ma's father. [Source: Edward Cody, Washington Post, March 24, 2008 |+|]

Keith Bradsher wrote in the New York Times, Ma offered “a mechanism and a formula for achieving a peace agreement with the mainland. For starters, he said that peace negotiations should be handled through two semi-official foundations set up with government backing in the early 1990s: the Straits Exchange Foundation, which Ma helped establish on the Taiwan side, and Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits. Using semi-official organizations to conduct talks, instead of government agencies, is like shaking hands while wearing white gloves, Ma said. "If you wear a white glove, it is still courteous, but it is not your actual flesh," he said. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, March 24, 2008 +]

“The trickier task is to find a formula that balances Beijing's position that Taiwan is a breakaway province and Taiwan's position that it is a sovereign country as the legal continuation of the Republic of China, the government that replaced imperial rule in China. Ma said that he accepted the so-called 1992 consensus, in which Taiwanese and mainland officials reached an informal understanding, never issued as a formal document, that there is one China but that the two sides interpret differently. Ma offered another formulation, saying that sovereignty issues were too difficult to resolve but that the two sides would have to move beyond denying the legal existence of each other. He described this approach as "mutual non-denial," while providing few details.” +

Meetings Between Chinese and Taiwanese Officials and Leaders

In April 2008, less than a month after Ma Ying-jeou was elected president, Taiwan vice president-elect Vincent Siew met briefly with Chinese President Hu Jintao, with both saying they wanted closer economic ties. "The visit signals in concrete terms a beginning of detente across the Strait," said Lin Chong-pin, a former Taiwan government official and president of the Taipei-based Foundation on International and Cross-strait Studies. "So far that (detente) has only been atmospheric." [Source: Reuters, April 12, 2008]

Reuters reported: The two sides have not met formally since the 1990s. They avoided politics in the live broadcast portions of their meeting. Siew is attending China's annual high-level annual conference for government and business leaders as chairman of the private, Taiwan-based Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation. He traveled with Su Chi, a defense specialist and former legislator from Siew's Nationalist Party (KMT) as well as with a handful of scholars and businesspeople. Su described the meeting as "candid and harmonious" with "harmonious chemistry." Later China's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Chen Yunlin met for dinner with Siew's delegation.

In May 2008, a few days after Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated President of Taiwan, Hu Jintao met with Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Xinhua reported: “Hu said that with the joint efforts of the CPC and KMT, and of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, the political situation in Taiwan has gone through positive changes, and the cross-Strait relationship faces a precious opportunity. "We should cherish this hard-earned situation," said Hu.He expressed hope that the two parties and both sides across the strait could make joint efforts to build mutual trust, lay aside disputes, seek consensus and shelve differences, and jointly create a win-win situation. [Source: Xinhua, May 28, 2008]

In October 2008, Ma met with a senior Chinese envoy in Taipei as part of an effort to improve diplomatic ties between Beijing and Taipei after the envoy signed transportation and trade agreements with Taiwanese negotiators. The New York Times reported: The meeting was one of the highest-level exchanges between officials from mainland China and Taiwan since 1949. The meeting between Mr. Ma and the Chinese envoy, Chen Yunlin, began at 11 a.m. and lasted only five minutes. The two officials exchanged gifts: Mr. Chen presented Mr. Ma with a painting of a horse (Mr. Ma’s surname means horse), and Mr. Ma gave Mr. Chen a piece of fine porcelain. Despite the warming of relations, Mr. Ma told reporters on Thursday that “we can’t deny that there still exist differences and challenges, especially regarding Taiwan’s security and international status.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, October 6, 2008 |~|]

“Mr. Chen did not address Mr. Ma as zongtong — president. Doing so would have implied that the mainland recognizes Taiwan’s de facto independent status. The question of how Mr. Chen would address Mr. Ma was much discussed by political analysts in the mainland and Taiwan before Mr. Chen arrived in Taipei, and pro-nationalist Taiwanese were irate after learning that Mr. Chen avoided using Mr. Ma’s formal title.The meeting came as hundreds of protesters opposed to close ties with the mainland gathered around the meeting site, a government guest house, to denounce the two officials, according to news agencies. Riot police barricaded streets and stood in long lines with shields and batons. The previous night, Mr. Chen had been trapped by protesters in a hotel, the Grand Formosa Regent Taipei, while attending a banquet there. Hundreds of protesters surrounded the hotel, chanting, throwing eggs and burning Chinese flags, according to news agencies. Riot police intervened and dozens of people were injured.” |~|

In July 2009, Ma Ying-jeou and Hu Jintao Chinese exchanged messages, marking the first time in 60 years that Chinese and Taiwanese presidents communicated directly. Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian, “First came direct flights, then freight links, and now a single telegram. Hu Jintao wrote to Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou to mark the latter's election as chairman of the Nationalist party. Because of the enduring mutual sensitivities, the message was sent simply to Mr Ma, while Ma's reply was addressed to Hu as general secretary of the Communist party. "I hope our two parties can continue to promote peaceful cross-strait development, deepen mutual trust, bring good news to compatriots on both sides and create a revival of the great Chinese race," said Hu in his telegram. "We should continue efforts to consolidate peace in the Taiwan Strait and rebuild regional stability," Ma replied, adding that they should "put aside disputes". [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, July 27, 2009]

Taiwan and China Trade Pact

In June 2010, the governments of China and Taiwan signed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in the Chinese city of Chongqing. The trade pact gives Taiwanese companies tariff benefits in China that are similar to those received by Southeast Asian countries under a separate trade pact with China. According to Associated Press The agreement is the jewel in the crown of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's policy of seeking closer economic ties to ease tension across the Taiwan Strait.” Under the trade pact, Taiwanese companies will receive tariff advantages on 539 products exported to China, while Chinese companies will receive advantages on 267 products in the Taiwan market.

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times, During Ma’s tenure Taiwanese exports and investment on the mainland have soared; at home, the local economy has been buoyed by more than 3 million mainland tourists who began arriving shortly after his inauguration. Those policies, and the wealth that flowed to exporters, helped solidify his support among business leaders and investors. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, January 14, 2012]

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters chanted anti-communist slogans as they marched in Taipei to protest a trade agreement with China that they said would undermine the island's self-rule and harm its economy. Associated Press reported: “Many protesters held signs reading "It's a Shame to Embrace Communist China" and "Protect Taiwan , Protect Our Jobs" as they marched several miles (kilometers) along a main thoroughfare in Taipei to the presidential office building. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party is calling for a referendum on the pact, saying Taiwanese have a right to express their views before it takes effect. Police said about 32,000 people participated in the protest, while organizers said there were more than 100,000. [Source: Associated Press , June 26, 2010 /]

Ma Ying-jeou Promises to Abide by ‘One China’ Policy

In April 2013, Ma Ying-jeou renewed his support for the “One China” policy as the island marked the 20th anniversary of historic talks with former bitter rival China. Ma Ying-jeou of AFP wrote: “Ma pledged to maintain the status quo which he said was to the island’s benefit. Taipei is becoming increasingly reluctant to push for political negotiations with its giant neighbor due to a lack of consensus among its people.“No matter where we are, here or abroad, we’ll by no means push for ‘Two Chinas’, ‘One Taiwan, one China’ or ‘Taiwan independence’,” the president said in a speech to mark the anniversary. [Source: Ma Ying-jeou, Agence France-Presse, April 29, 2013 -]

“The landmark 1993 negotiations in Singapore were the first high-level talks between Taiwan and China since the Kuomintang government fled to Taipei in 1949 after losing a civil war on the mainland. Under the “One China’ policy, each side formally asserts its claim to be the legitimate ruler of both Taiwan and the mainland, meaning that Taipei rules out making any formal declaration of independence for the island. Beijing has threatened to invade in response to any such declaration. -

“China angrily suspended negotiations in 1999 in protest at controversial remarks by Taiwan’s then-president Lee Teng-hui, when he referred to Taipei-Beijing ties as “special state to state” relations. Dialogue resumed in 2008 after Ma, from the China-friendly Kuomintang party, came to power, ending the eight-year rule by the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party. The past five years have seen improved economic cooperation, including the signing of a historic trade agreement and direct flights across the Strait. But the idea of political, as opposed to trade, talks with the mainland is highly sensitive in Taiwan. The DPP and the smaller but more radical opposition party Taiwan Solidarity Union strongly oppose the “One China” principle, which Beijing insists is the basis of negotiations.” -

In the meantime the DPP eased up on its anti-China stance. In 2010, Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times, “Despite their anti-China rhetoric, the Democratic Progressives have themselves begun to warm to Beijing. Although the party opposed the trade agreement negotiated by Mr. Ma, it has muted its criticism in the face of the accord’s broad popularity among ordinary citizens. The party’s popular mayor of Kaohsiung, Chen Chu, broke the ice with mainland leaders in mid-2009 by visiting Beijing to promote an athletic competition in her city. More recently, the party’s chairwoman expressed willingness to start a dialogue with Beijing, according to Lin Chong-Pin, a former deputy defense minister who is now a professor at Tamkang University. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, November 26, 2010] Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourism Bureau, Republic of China (Taiwan), Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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