Ketagalan Media: Observations on Rising Populism in Taiwan Politics

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In today’s Taiwan, all the above described types of populist politics are thriving due to the collective sentiments of groups of people feeling left behind by the pro-reform movements, and by perceptions of growing political support from the administration and political elites of progressive (e.g., same-sex marriage) and reformist (e.g., pension reforms) policies. The “followers” are prone to be attracted or mobilized by “easy or empty slogans” (“get rich, Taiwan safe, people rich”, or “make money diplomacy” as repeatedly announced in Han Kuo-yu’s mayoral campaign in 2018) so as to be politically co-opted by populist rhetoric.

There is also an anti-establishment and anti-elite political mindset among the populist leaders and their followers. They tend to be easily influenced by rumors and disinformation spread through traditional radio programs and social media, such as those promoting “the China dream” and PRC’s unification policies. In many respects, Taiwan’s rise of populist mobilization also explicitly contains the external “influences from China,” an illusion that connecting with China could offer an easy solution to the prevailing frustration of “the common people.”

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