As 2015 draws to a close, we look back on a year filled with local protests, controversies, and presidential campaigns. Here are 5 issues you must know about if anyone asks you about what happened in Taiwan in 2015:
5. Economic Agreements
On March 30, the Ma administration applied for Taiwan to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an international financial institution proposed by China, as a founding member. Per China’s requirement, the Ma administration applied through China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) rather than applying as a normal country, but did so without consulting the Taiwanese public, thereby sparking a protest in Taipei on March 31. China ultimately rejected Taiwan’s application and claimed that further discussion would be required to determine an “appropriate name” for Taiwan.
In October, Taiwan also sought to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement regarding economic policies, but experienced similar opposition from China. The continued exclusion of Taiwan from major international economic agreements, despite its key geopolitical location in Asia-Pacific and its important role in the global supply chain, prevents Taiwan and its economic and security partners (ex. US, Japan) from reaping full social, political, and economic benefits.
4. Textbook Controversy
In 2000, Taiwanese compulsory education announced the “one curriculum standard, multiple textbooks” movement, which allows educators to present their own perspectives in privately-published textbooks as long as they align with the official curriculum standard. This past summer, the Ministry of Education proposed changes to the curriculum standard that promote a China-centric interpretation of Taiwanese history. Since the standardized college entrance exam for Taiwanese students is based on the official curriculum standard, these changes would have affected every secondary school student in Taiwan and, consequently, permanently impacted Taiwanese society and its interpretation of its history. The proposed civics curriculum reform sparked student protests, protests at the Ministry of Education, and several online petitions.
3. Food Scandals
Formerly associated with quality and tradition, Taiwanese products are now under heavy fire due to the recent uncovering of numerous food scandals (most notably, the “gutter oil” scandal). These scandals, which have damaged domestic and international trust in Taiwanese food products, have also brought several issues plaguing the Taiwanese food industry to light. Unless these issues are resolved, Taiwan risks hurting its people’s health, damaging its economy, and losing its reputation for amazing food.
2. Presidential Election Preparations
2015 has been a busy year for the three presidential candidates as Taiwan prepares to exercise its hard-earned democracy in the highly anticipated 2016 presidential election. On January 16, 2016, the DPP’s Tsai Ing-Wen, the KMT’s Eric Chu, and the PFP’s James Soong will run against each other in the nation’s fourth democratic presidential election. This highlight reel covers several of the major events leading up to the 2016 elections.
1. Ma-Xi Meeting
On November 7, the leaders of the PRC and the ROC met for the first time in 69 years, a shocking event which President Ma Ying-jeou had promised would never occur. Stating that they sought to solidify cross-strait peace and maintain the status quo, President Ma Ying-jeou and President Xi Jin-ping convened in Singapore behind closed doors for 50 minutes before attending separate press conferences. Although no official documents were signed or agreed upon, this historic meeting may have set the tone of future ROC-PRC relations and is speculated by many to be an attempt by Ma to sway the upcoming presidential elections against DPP candidate Tsai Ing-Wen. Read about seven things that have changed since the last time the PRC and the ROC met.