Exploring the Nuances of Taiwanese Politics with Ryan Hass

In a recent installment of the Taiwan Forum lecture series, Ryan Hass, Director of the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings and the Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies, engaged with Pardee School faculty and students in a compelling discussion on pivotal aspects of Taiwanese politics, particularly following the January 2024 presidential election.

This event, organized by the Center for the Study of Asia, commenced with opening remarks from Professor Robert Hefner, Professor of Anthropology and International Relations, and Director of the Center for the Study of Asia; Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies Dean Scott Taylor; and Bob Murowchick, Lecturer in Archaeology and Director of Undergraduate Studies with the Archaeology Program; Associate Director of the BU Center for the Study of Asia; Director of Asian Arc: The Asian Cultural Heritage Research Initiative. These introductory insights set the stage for a nuanced exploration of Taiwan’s intricate political landscape.

Hass, a seasoned foreign policy analyst, provided valuable insights into the implications of the recent election. The discussion, expertly moderated by Joe Fewsmith, Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, delved into coalition challenges, leadership dynamics, and the delicate balance in U.S.-Taiwan-China relations.

Hass, drawing from his extensive experience, also shared intriguing snippets from his time working in the White House during the Obama administration, offering a unique perspective to the discourse.

The multifaceted dialogue explored the phenomenon of support for Ko Wen-je, despite politically incorrect comments, including those disrespectful to women. The unwavering support from young voters, particularly in their 20s, was scrutinized, revealing a mix of dissatisfaction with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and an attraction to Ko Wen-je’s authenticity. The influence of social media, notably short clips on platforms like TikTok and Facebook, emerged as a potent tool shaping opinions—a trend reminiscent of political landscapes worldwide. The conversation drew parallels between Ko Wen-je’s success and the unconventional style witnessed in the U.S., particularly during the Trump era. Hass, in jest, remarked, “I think he’d be delighted to know how much we are thinking about him,” adding a touch of humor to the discussion.

Audience questions, including those from Taiwanese participants, enriched the discussion, offering diverse viewpoints and contributing to a holistic understanding of Taiwanese politics. Key topics included the challenges faced by Chinese President Xi Jinping, economic issues, leadership changes, and the delicate balance in U.S.-China relations. Hass highlighted the potential implications of China’s stance on Taiwan’s new administration, providing valuable insights into the geopolitical dynamics at play.

The role of ASEAN in Taiwan Straits dynamics was scrutinized, challenging preconceived notions of its influence. The event underscored the importance of considering regional perspectives and the intricate interplay of geopolitical forces in East Asia.

This installment of the Taiwan Forum lecture series, with its diverse perspectives, provided an invaluable platform for understanding Taiwanese politics and its broader implications. The engagement of Taiwanese participants added authenticity and depth to the discourse, making it a comprehensive exploration of the intricate political landscape in Taiwan.

The event was supported by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), the Boston Education Division, and the Ministry of Education, Taiwan. The expressions of gratitude for their generous support highlighted the significance of external partnerships in fostering meaningful discussions on global affairs.

Pardee School’s Center for the Study of Asia, established in 2008, promotes comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and cross-national understanding of Asia through the coordination of teaching missions, research support, community-building among faculty and students, and broad outreach beyond the university. It strives to be an intellectual hub for new ideas and cutting-edge research in the humanities and social sciences.

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