Written by Jonathan Sullivan and Gunter Schubert.

Taiwan is an important global economy and a star pupil of the ‘Third Wave’ of democratization. It is one of Asia’s most liberal and vibrant societies. At the same time, due to the complexities and contested nature of its status, Taiwan finds itself in an undeservedly marginalized position in global society (and in the academy). Despite this, Taiwan is of enormous substantive importance in the Asia-Pacific  (as well as an unusual and fascinating subject of academic research), and this is reflected in the organization and endeavours of the CPI’s Taiwan Studies Programme (TSP) and  the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT) at the University of Tübingen.

Under the direction of Professor Steve Tsang and Professor Gunter Schubert respectively, and with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chiang Ching Kuo Foundation for Scholarly Exchange, the TSP and the ERCCT have emerged as two of the major centres of academic expertise on Taiwan in Europe. With concentrations of established Taiwan specialists, and supporting PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and visiting scholars from Taiwan, the TSP and ERCCT organize regular activities relating to Taiwan, including the TSP’s annual Taiwan workshop and ERCCT’s public lecture series among many others.

To further the academic study of Taiwan and engagement with interested audiences outside of the academy, the TSP and ERCCT collaborate by combining intellectual resources to promote Taiwan Studies in Europe and beyond. Among a range of collaborative activities, this special issue of the CPI blog is the first of a series of jointly organized editions that will appear at regular intervals focusing on contemporary Taiwanese politics, economics, society and cross-Strait relations. Researchers affiliated with both institutions will present their analysis and personal viewpoint informed by their ongoing research on Taiwan.

In the current special edition of the blog, TSP and ERCCT scholars comment on the significance and wider implications of the upcoming 9-in-1 local elections scheduled for November 29. More than half a year after the ‘Sunflower Movement’, the three-week student occupation of the Legislative Yuan, the long-term repercussions on Taiwan’s political landscape remain open to conjecture. Relevant areas of interest covered in this special issue include the future of Taiwan’s newly mobilized civil society and its relationship to the Democratic Progressive Party, (mist)trust in Taiwan’s political institutions, the impact of cross-Strait economic integration and Chinese investment on Taiwan’s economy and sovereignty, and the evolution of Taiwanese nationalism, just to name a few. The blogs selected for this special edition thus bring the 9-in-1 elections into perspective from different analytical angles and assess their significance for the 2016 national elections.

The line-up includes:

Gunter Schubert (ERCCT), Beijing’s Trojan Horse?

Stefan Braig (ERCCT), The Soft Power of Local Elections

Chun-Yi Lee (TSP), Rethinking the cross Strait economic relationship

Stefan Fleischauer (ERCCT), Sunny Days and Nuclear Disasters:  The China Factor in Taiwan’s Local Elections

Scott Pacey (TSP), Taiwanese Buddhists and Social Engagement

Igor Rogelja (ERCCT), The Return of Politics Outside the State

Michal Thim (TSP), Taiwan’s national security debate in between elections

André Beckershof (ERCCT), Don’t judge the Sunflower Movement by local election outcomes

Ek-hong Ljavakaw Sia (ERCCT), Local elections and the realignment of national identity

Shelley Rigger (Davidson and TSP), The 9-in-1 elections are not a referendum on Ma’s presidency

Dr Jonathan Sullivan is Deputy Director of the CPI, Editor of the CPI blog and an Associate Fellow at ERCCT. Professor Gunter Schubert is Director of the ERCCT.