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Chang, Jung-Chun (2023) The appeals to national identity in Taiwan’s presidential campaign videos. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This study challenges a common academic notion that, in Taiwan’s presidential elections, national identity is an issue independent of other campaign discourses. Previous studies have only recognised and checked how often candidates present visible appeals to national identity in Taiwan’s election campaign advertising. However, I argue that to avoid alienating independent voters, candidates might not always explicitly reveal their national identities in campaign communications. Rather, they often show their stance implicitly or even dramatically through symbols such as public policy statements and specific signs, scenes, songs and languages in campaign materials. This argument is supported by content analysis, discourse analysis, and indepth interviews in this study. This study aims to answer two questions that have not been fully examined in previous studies on Taiwan’s identity politics. First, in Taiwan’s presidential elections, what were the symbolic representations of KMT and DPP candidates’ national identity appeals in the election campaign videos? Second, what were the rationales behind the arrangements of those symbolic representations? From 2012 to 2020, the DPP candidates almost exclusively expressed a Taiwanese identity in campaign videos. However, in her 2020 presidential campaign, DPP candidate Tsai Ing-wen presented ‘R.O.C. Taiwan’ as a new national identity in order to maximise support from those professing a Taiwanese identity, a R.O.C. identity or both. This is the newest development in Taiwan’s identity politics. To compete with the DPP, the KMT’s presidential candidates also frequently have identified as Taiwanese in campaign videos, although for the KMT, Taiwanese identity is by necessity a provincial identity. In addition, the KMT’s candidates have used symbols like the image of R.O.C.’s founding father, R.O.C. flag, the anthem of R.O.C. flag, and KMT’s party emblem to imply the R.O.C. national identity in campaign videos. Overall, this study has several research findings which are original and contribute to the study of Taiwan’s identity politics. First, in Taiwan’s presidential elections, at least from 2012 to 2020, both the KMT and DPP candidates used a synthesis of visual and audial symbolic representations to imply their national or provincial identities in campaign videos. Second, the use of such symbols is influenced by candidates’ perceptions of the political, social, economic and cross- Strait contexts in a given election year. In other words, in Taiwan’s presidential elections, the appeal to national identity has been actually a compromise between candidates’ party stances and some contextual factors in Taiwanese society. Third, in the campaign videos, candidates have elaborated the meanings of national identity from economic, social, cultural, and communicative perspectives to earn the greatest support from the public. Fourth, KMT candidates have emphasised the compatibility of Taiwanese identity and the R.O.C. identity in their campaign videos but, to get more votes from Taiwanese people, have used more symbols to imply Taiwanese identity. In Taiwan’s 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, DPP’s candidate Tsai Ingwen only implied Taiwanese national identity in her campaign videos. However, in Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, to counterattack the KMT’s accusation concerning her avoidance of R.O.C. identity, Tsai has started to include symbols like the R.O.C. flag in campaign videos to represent the R.O.C. identity. Thus, it is clear that, for both KMT and DPP’s presidential candidates, the appeals to national identity entail dynamic and strategic considerations in campaign communications.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Dafydd Fell, Bi-Yu Chang and Dina Matar
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2023 21:37

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