There are three main social media outlets that Taiwanese politicians might have accounts on for self-promotion.
Twitter is the least common of the three, in general it is used by local politicians who are interested in reaching an international audience, and the posts are usually in English, Japanese or whatever the target language is.
Many local politicians don’t bother with Twitter.
For example, Han Kuo-yu does have an account set up, but it’s essentially inactive and still lists his account as the official account of the Mayor of Kaohsiung to give you an idea of just how long it has been inactive.
In fact Han’s account never once posted, and only follows one account: Kaohsiung City.
A few are very active, however, aside from the official government accounts.
Of course the president’s account gets a lot of attention, but the most punchy of the government accounts is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs–which often delivers hard-hitting and sometimes hilarious tweets to counter the PRC’s “wolf warrior” diplomatic tweets.
A tip on MOFA’s tweets is if at the end there is a JW, that means Foreign Minister Joseph Wu personally penned that message–and they are usually the sharpest.
Taiwan representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim is especially active on her personal account, and her self description reads “Personal account for Taiwan Ambassador, Representative, and Cat Warrior in the US”.
The sharpest and funniest, however, is Presidential spokesperson Kolas Yotaka.
Her tweets are often total gems, here are a few:
Commenting on the 100th anniversary of the CCP: “The CCP wants Taiwan for their 100th birthday. Just pick something else. Grow up.”
Her sarcastic take on joining the WHO: “Maybe a UFO has a better chance than Taiwan at the WHO.”
In spite of being presidential spokesperson, she doesn’t shy away from criticizing Taiwan: “Systemic bias against migrant workers in Taiwan is real, and we’re seeing this in some COVID responses. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we need to keep shining a light on the problem. This is how we make progress.”
She also posts funny memes that it appears she’s created herself.
If you follow anyone in Taiwan politics on Twitter, she’s the one to follow.
Another who is very active on Twitter is DPP lawmaker Wang Ting-yu, who is quite eloquent on Taiwan military issues–and it appears to have made him a go-to guy for foreign journalists as a result.
KMT chair candidate Johnny Chiang is also active on Twitter.
The KMT’s account is also active, and is a frequent punching bag for pan-greens.
Apparently one day whoever acts as their translator or social media person lost it, and accused Singaporean activist and now Taiwan resident and writer Roy Ngerng of essentially being a white supremacist in what can only be described as an unhinged rant.
Another interesting politician on Twitter is Lii Wen, the head of the DPP chapter in Matsu.
He ran for office there, and unsurprisingly for such a pro-China series of islands, lost–but he managed to get some actual votes, which is something of an achievement.
He’s known for his dogged determination, and who knows, he might make some headway.
Unlike other social media, most Twitter handles are pretty plain, mostly just their own names.
Politicians Instagram accounts are almost exactly the opposite of their Twitter presence.
Here, the politicians are targeting a purely local audience–especially a younger audience–and the content is generally lighter-hearted.
Their handles are also often far more amusing.
It may seem odd that I follow a bunch of politicians accounts on Instagram, but I’ve noticed there often seems to be a correlation between increased online activity and some underlying political motive.
While many or even most use their own names as their Instagram handles, it is here that many feel it is ok to get a bit more creative.
For example, Han Kuo-yu’s handle is “vegetable.han”, which is not a reference to being in a vegetative state, but a humorous take on the fact he used to run the Taipei agricultural marketing organization, and made much of his ties to farmers and, for some reason, loved to pose for pictures with cabbages.
Recently, he’s taken to adding a Bible quote to almost all of his posts, perhaps to signal he’s doing some sort of penance after being kicked out of the Kaohsiung mayorship in a recall.
Another with an amusing IG handle is DPP lawmaker Kao Chia-yu, who is most famous for singing terribly in public and somehow getting on the news for that.
Oh, and being on lots of talk shows.
Her handle is “ntufish”, which I assume is her alma mater National Taiwan University, plus fish–which is a homonym for the third character in her name.
Another who has a play on his name is former Taichung Mayor and transport minister Lin Chia-lung, who on IG and Facebook is “dragonforpeople”.
The “lung” in his name means “dragon”.
Johnny Chiang went for a descriptive username, “Taichungjohnny”, as he represents a Taichung district in the legislature.
One I’m a little unsure of is Lai Ping-yu, the DPP lawmaker famous for doing cosplay, whose handle is “souichi_lai”.
Doing a search for Souichi turns up a Japanese manga character who is described this way on fandom.com:
“He is usually seen biting iron/steel nails in his mouth due to the lack of iron in his body.
Like many of Junji Ito’s antagonist characters, Souichi is known for his schemes, though many of them backfire in comedic and ironic ways.”
Seems a curious choice as a username for a legislator, but maybe she’s referring to something else.
One of my favourites is Premier Su Tseng-chang’s account, which is “eballgogogo”, which I can only guess refers to his bald head and reputation for being high energy.
Facebook is the big one.
I’ve read in multiple sources that Taiwan has the highest Facebook penetration of any country in the world, and politicians of course use that to their advantage.
When they make big announcements, it is often done on Facebook.
For example, when President Tsai announced she personally supported marriage equality in the runup to the 2016 election, she did it on Facebook–though many if not most supporters of marriage equality missed the distinction between that being her personal opinion, not that of the party, which led to years of delays in spite of the court ruling mandating it.
More recently, Eric Chu announced his run for KMT chair on Facebook.
He is one of the few with a username that amuses me, “llchu”, which I’ve convinced myself means he’s a big L.L. Cool J fan and is hoping everyone will call him L.L. Cool Chu.
I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with his given names being Li-lun, nope–not at all, definitely has to be a reference to L.L. Cool J.
Being in Facebook is a must to follow local politics, as with the possible exception of media appearances, this is where politicians do the most communication with the public.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time the posts are bland and meant to be widely shared, which they often are in groups that share their ideology–or hate them and want to mock them.
It is also the platform that tends to get them in the most trouble, often leading to lawsuits and in some cases violence, as when Taoyuan City Councillor Wang Hao-yu of the DPP made allegations about the Kaohsiung City Council speaker after his suicide right after the Han Kuo-yu recall, and Han supporters mobbed his office.
His sharp tongue repeatedly got him in trouble, and he was kicked out in a recall vote after so thoroughly enraging pan-blue supporters they passionately mobilized against him.
That fate did not befall former NPP and now independent Kaohsiung City Councillor Huang Jie, who in spite of being famous for sharp questioning of Han in city council, on social media projects an image of being kind, caring and active in her district.
One last social media outlet that is important in Taiwan is LINE, but this seems to be more oriented to groups of fans and followers, who share memes, ideas and at times conspiracy theories.
Many of our listeners have seemed puzzled why I’m not active on Linkedin, and now I hope you have a clearer reason as to why–it’s essentially totally irrelevant to local politics, and I spend more than enough time following local social media to keep up, and don’t really have the time for it.
Image courtesy of Kao Chia-yu’s https://www.facebook.com/ntufishfans