Ma: The Life & Times of a President

Ma: The Life & Times of a President
Photo Credit: AP / 達志影像

Compiled and translated by Chang Shin-wei

Ending his eight-year rule on May 20, former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou stepped down with a satisfaction rate of 23%. Taking office with a support rate of 66%, Ma’s pro-China policies and failure to respond to the concerns of civil society saw his support track downhill, reaching a low of 9.2%.

2008.03.23 Presidential election

President Ma Ying-jeou, paired with Xiao Wan-chang of the Kuomintang (KMT), gained victory over the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidates by a landslide. Ma and Xiao won more than seven million votes (58%), 2 million more than their DPP counterpart, hitting the highest record of votes a presidential candidate has ever received.

2008.09 Powdered milk scandal

Thousands of Chinese infants were impacted after drinking milk that had been contaminated with melamine. Produced by Sanlu Group, the “toxic milk” led to about 300,000 victims with six infants dying and tens of thousands hospitalized. The milk powder was also used in Taiwan’s food industry, resulting in public panic over the safety of dairy products and baked goods.

2009.01.18 Shopping coupon stimulus

In response to the Global Financial Crisis, the Ma government decided to issue shopping coupons worth NT$3,600 (approximately US$110) to citizens. The impact of the coupons in boosting the economy was questioned by experts.

2009.04 Participation in WHO

Invited to join the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer, Taiwan sent a group of delegates to the 62nd World Health Assembly. This was the first time for the Republic of China (ROC) to participate in an United Nations (UN)-related event in 38 years.

2009.05 Trade talks with China

Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Wu Po-hsiung, chairman of the governing KMT, to enhance economic cooperation across the strait.

2009.08 Typhoon Morakot

Typhoon Morakot caused damage throughout Taiwan, especially for southern Taiwan, killing more than 500. The Ma government’s response was criticized.

2009.08 Unemployment hits record high

The unemployment rate reached more than 6%, the highest in history. A study shows that Taiwan's Misery Index, calculated from jobless and inflation rate, hit a record high.

2009.09.12 Bid for KMT leadership

Despite promising not to be president and KMT chairman at the same time in 2007, Ma was elected party chairman as the sole candidate.

2010.01 US arms sale

The US announced the sale of air defense missiles and other arms to Taiwan with a total price tag of US$6.7 billion. There were four major US arms sales during Ma’s time in office, reaching a total of US$20 billion.

2010.06 Free Trade Pact (ECFA) with China signed

Taiwan and China signed their first trade agreement, ECFA. It was “the most significant agreement in 60 years of separation,” according to BBC. The Ma government said the agreement could help Taiwan avoid being marginalized by the global market.

2011 Taiwan food scandal - plasticizer

Considered 30 times more toxic than the chemical found in the 2008 milk powder scandal, plasticizer was found to be used by upstream suppliers of Taiwanese food producers. An estimated 831 products were contaminated by plasticizer, mostly sports drinks, bottled juice and tea. At-risk products had been sold to 21 countries, including the US, China and Singapore. In 2012, three Taiwanese businessmen and their wives were found guilty over the scandal. One of them was sentenced to 15 years in jail.

2011.09 Media sale sparks protest

Want Want Holdings bought the China Times Media Group in 2009. The group owns China Times Media Group, China Television and CtiTV. However, the Want Want Media Group proposed to acquire the China Network System (CNS) to the National Communications Commission (NCC) in 2010, meaning the group would gain control of 12 TV channels and 11 cable TV systems. Experts and scholars opposed the acquisition, claiming that it would harm free speech and news impartiality. The NCC accepted the proposal in 2012. But the acquisition was later blocked by NCC after it found the group violated regulatory conditions.

2012.01.14 Presidential election

Paired with Wu Dun-yee, President Ma won the election again, with 6.89 million votes, 51% of the total. The election was much closer than in 2008, Tsai Ing-wen and Su Jia-chyuan, the DPP candidates, picked up 45%.

2012 US beef controversy

Amid talks with the US regarding the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), the Ma government was considering allowing the import of American beef. However, experts and Taiwanese were concerned about Ractopamine, a chemical boosting animal's growth, could be harmful for humans. The issue triggered a wave of protest from many Taiwanese, who said the government should not compromise public health. However, the government permitted American beef imports, but required Ractopamine to be less than 0.01 ppm.

2012.06 Lin Yi-shih bribery case

Lin Yi-shih, secretary-general in Ma's government, was accused of accepting bribes. Lin was sentenced to 13 years in jail with a fine of NT$15.8 million (approximately US$470,000) According to Apoluowang, Ma’s corruption-free image was broken.

2012.08 Energy price hikes

Following the fixed fuel oil price from 2010 to 2011, the Ma government announced a 10% price hike to reflect the international crude oil price. A month later, the price of electricity increased by nearly 30%.

2012.11.07 Ma described as "ineffectual bumbler" by The Economist

2013.05 Conflict with the Philippines

A Taiwanese fishing boat cruised in disputed waters near the Philippines. Philippines authorities shot at the boat, killing one Taiwanese fisherman. The incident saw mounting tension between Taiwan and the Philippines.

2013.06 Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement

The long-disputed Cross-strait agreement on trade in services (CSSTA) between Taiwan and China, a deal made under the framework of ECFA, was signed. The Ma government claimed that it would bring economic benefit to Taiwan. This event is seen as a key point in triggering the Sunflower Movement in 2014.

2013.07 Dapu incident

In developing the Hsinchu Science Park, the Miaoli County Government acquired land by force, and claimed it to be government property in 2010. Protests and lawsuits related to the event continued for several years and several farmers committed suicide in protest. The actions of tearing down people's property, carried out by the Ministry of the Interior and the Miaoli County Government, was ruled illegal in 2014.

2013.08.03 Hung Chung-chiu citizen movement

Three days before his obligatory military service ended, Hung Chung-chiu was found dead at a military camp. His death attracted public attention. It was revealed he had suffered bullying, abuse and violence before dying in confinement. The key evidence for the abuse - surveillance footage - went missing. An estimated 30,000 protested in Taipei. Twenty seven military officials were later punished, and an amendment was passed in 2015 to ensure soldiers' right to appeal against their supervisors.

2013.09 KMT chairman, again

Ma ran for KMT chairman and won again. His support level as president was 13%.

2013.09 Ma-Wang conflict

Wang Jin-pyng, minister of Legislative Yuan, was accused of corruption. This enraged President Ma, who publicly condemned Wang in front of the media. The local election later held in November indicated a landslide loss for KMT, forcing President Ma to resign the position of KMT chairman.

2013.09.16 Ma's support dropped to the famous 9.2%

With social activism on the rise, a poll showed that the public was unsatisfied with the Ma-Wang political conflict, Ma’s support rate dipped below 10%.

2014.02 China talks

Officials from China and Taiwan met in Nanking, China, marking the first time for minister-level officials talks since 1949.

2014.03 The Sunflower Movement

As the DPP was trying to stop the review process of the ECFA, Taiwan’s parliament fell into chaos. One legislator from KMT rushed to the podium and announced the end of the review process within 30 seconds. This enraged many Taiwanese, especially students. Protestors occupied parliament for 24 days, demanding procedural justice. During the protests students occupied the legislative buildings, thousands of police were deployed, water cannons were used against non-violent protestors, and journalists were asked to leave.

This was the largest student movement since the 1990 Wild Lily Movement.

2014.07.31 Kaohsiung gas explosion

Multiple gas explosions led to 32 people killed and 321 injured, three major roads were seriously damaged.

2014.12 Defeat in local elections

President Ma Ying-jeou resigns as chairman of the ruling KMT after the party was crushed in local elections. The polls were seen as a referendum on Ma's pro-China policies.

2015.11.07 Ma-Xi meeting

Talks between President Ma and China president Xi Jinping was held in Singapore. The event is considered a milestone in cross-strait relations. BBC noted, it was the first such meeting since the Chinese Civil War finished and the nations split in 1949.

2015.11.10 Ma described as "loser," by Time

2016.01.28 Ma’s Visit to Taiping Island

Despite Ma criticizing former presidents for visiting the Taiping Island, Ma visited the islands amid domestic and international criticisms.

Edited by Edward White

Sources:

TVBS

Central Election Commission

Aboluowang

Epoch Times

Apple Daily

CNA

The Food and Drug Administration

NowNews

NowNews

Coolloud

Global Voices

Apple Daily

Apoluowang

Taipei Times

UDN

CNA

CNN

China Times

The News Lens

Apple Daily

Apple Daily

Awakening News Network

CWI

Apple Daily

ETToday

Liberty Times Net

Thinking-Taiwan

Bloomberg

ETToday

Apple Daily

BBC

Strom Media Group

Civil Media