Can Taiwan’s President fend off a populist wave?

The next election is cast as a Clinton v Trump-like contest between a breezy populist and “adult in the room”.

The Intyerpreter
Date: 29 Jul 2019
By: Nick Aspinwall

Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu announces his run for Taiwan Presidential election (Photo: Asahi Shimbun via Getty)

Last week, as Taiwan’s presidential race gradually gathers pace before a ballot next year, opposition Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu climbed a banyan tree.

It was Han’s classically eccentric approach to countering an outbreak of dengue fever in the southern Taiwanese city Kaohsiung where he serves as mayor and to answer to the resulting criticism he has faced for a lax response to the problem. Han, with his customary rolled-up sleeves, yelled down from the tree to onlookers and assembled press that mosquitoes could breed in holes of water, then ordered health personnel to fill them.

Han Kuo-yu has decided in order to show progress on resolving the outbreak of dengue fever in #Kaohsiung (a matter he has shown utter incompetence in) is to climb atop a tree to "check" the outbreak. He is the KMT candidate running for president.

Images of Han in the banyan tree drew adoration from his supporters, ridicule from his critics, and an array of memes (one portrays Han as King Kong climbing the famed skyscraper Taipei 101). It’s a cocktail of attention – nearly equal parts love and scorn – that follows Han everywhere he goes. The populist upstart presidential candidate is the indisputable id of a presidential campaign defined by deepening divides among voters and an external tug-of-war between China and the United States.

To supporters of Han, who recently won a primary battle against Foxconn founder Terry Gou, his promises of prosperity via increased trade with China are the answer to a sluggish economy under President Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). To supporters of Tsai, Han’s promises are not only empty, they are a Trojan horse for an increased Chinese incursion into Taiwan’s economy and, by association, its sovereignty.    [FULL  STORY]

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