What you need to know
Taiwan's 2020 presidential election is a real-life Game of Thrones.
By Milo Hsieh, Fainjin Lin, Machi Lee, Patrick Peng
As Taiwan's 2020 presidential election is approaching, the public speculation is as exciting as Game of Thrones. It happens not in the fantasy land of Westeros, but in real life, on this island named Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan depending on your pledge of allegiance or political correctness.
Whether you're a GoT fan, never cared to watch it, or think you've wasted your prime years chasing a show that ended in disgrace, you'd probably find our Taiwan 2020 parallels entertaining. If you're unfamiliar with Taiwanese politicians, this is also a great place to get started — with some fun and laughter.
For context, Taiwan's 2020 presidential election is seen as a survival game of Taiwanese identity and democracy, a battle between the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), with some third-wave powers meddling.
Forewarning: If you're a very serious person or a scholar on cross-strait relations, please breathe and refrain from being offended.
Jon Snow = Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜)
Jon Snow, the bastard-son-turned-true-heir, charms the people of Westeros with his selfless leadership, although he is often clueless above love and battles and politics. A heroic idiot at best.
Han Kuo-yu’s blend of headstrong naivete and charismatic talking has made him very well-liked populist candidate among the Taiwanese. He prides himself as someone who has started from the bottom, like Jon Snow, but extremely prone to manipulation by seasoned political elites. Whenever Han is asked to elaborate on the details of his policies and plans, he has no answers. One has to wonder, what does he actually know?
Sansa Stark = Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)
Lady Sansa Stark was, on the first impression, the annoying snob from an elite family. At first naive and very poor at expressing herself, Sansa was repeatedly taken advantage of and betrayed by different male characters during her formative years. Towards the end of the show, though, Sansa matures into one of the most intelligent leaders and declares the North as an independent kingdom. She’s often hailed by fans as a character who has gone through the most personal development.
Tsai Ing-wen, like Sansa, has proved herself an experienced schemer after years of perceived weakness. As the only female player in the game, she has seen what toxic masculinity has done to Taiwan. Both Westeros and Taiwan are societies that seem to give more credit to men who talk big than women who have made real yet subtle progress.
Despite incoming White Walkers attempting to break through the wall and turn her people into blood-thirsty husks, she stands on to defend the kingdom. Will Tsai be able to protect her realm in 2020?
Daenerys Targaryen = Ko Wen-je (柯文哲)
Everyone thought that Daenerys should be the rightful queen (for the people), because she was the one who liberated the slaves and used violence for good ends. Her silver hair stands out as a symbol of purity against all evil. The taste of power, though, seems to have brought out the infamous "Targaryen madness" in her. She ends up burning the entire city with her dragon fire, an appalling move that leads her loyal subjects to revolt against her.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, after being in office since 2014, seems to want more. He has gained popularity among young people and median voters by being the "white power" that rises above the political colors. He often describes his work ethic as a "worker bee" since he arrives in the office every day at 7 a.m. on the dot. But as Ko continues his conquest, he becomes closer with Taiwan’s entrenched political elites. With his newly-formed Taiwan People's Party, he might well be a disruptive force in the upcoming election.
He once commanded the force of the dragons, but will he use what is left of his strength for good?
Euron Greyjoy = Terry Gou (郭台銘)
A hyper-masculine character who is not afraid to express his misogynistic thinking publicly. Euron Grejoy passes the Drowned God’s test and takes over his brother’s Iron Fleet to woo the Queen. With the support of many Ironborns who desperately want a strongman leader, Greyjoy goes on to win numerous battles and even kills a dragon with a hint of over-confidence.
Terry Gou is supported by both an Iron Fleet of semiconductor-producing factories and intern-warriors working long and hard hours. Like Euron Grejoy, Gou claims that the Sea Goddess Mazu has blessed him and asked him to run for president. Though Gou has suffered a devastating defeat during the KMT primary, political strategizing is perhaps occurring under the table between him, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-Je (柯文哲), and former Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-Pyng (王金平).
Will he succeed in taking over the Iron Throne with his Iron Fleet?
Petyr Baelish / Littlefinger = William Lai (賴清德)
Well-connected and cunning, Littlefinger has rolled the dies many times through planned betrayals. He has worked his way up from the bottom to the Master of Coin while running a vast intelligence network. Always playing the role of a good councilor, Littlefinger has his eyes on the Iron Throne from the beginning. To climb up the ladder, he is willing to sacrifice Sansa or anyone to reach his final goal.
Former Premier William Lai is a highly popular political figure, but his short-lived campaign for presidency was both sudden and unexpected. He challenged incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen in the DPP primary, an unprecedented move seen by many as backstabbing or betrayal. Since he lost the primary, he has maintained a low-profile. Some may expect Tsai to recruit him as the vice president for the sake of party unity despite the hard feelings.
Lord Varys = Wang Jin-pyng (王金平)
Lord Varys’s eyes always wander around, and his local factions of little birds always contribute to his pool of intelligence. A eunuch with a painful past, Varys does not chase for glory or fame, nor does he stay loyal to any particular king or queen. He serves the people by choosing to follow the fittest ruler in the realm.
Taiwan's longest-serving legislative speaker, Wang is known as the “fair uncle” for his time in the Legislative Yuan from 1999 to 2016. He prides himself on being able to navigate between different political party interests, helping the KMT and DPP reach a consensus on divisive issues. Because of his position, Wang is extremely connected in the political sphere.
A KMT member, Wang is also ironically seen by some KMT supporters as "blue (KMT) on the outside, green (DPP) on the inside 藍皮綠骨" due to his magical power in always striking a deal with DPP, the opposing party.
Arya Stark = Freddy Lim (林昶佐)
One of the most popular characters on Game of Thrones, Arya Stark is Sansa Stark's sister, but she's no ordinary princess or lady. Instead of sewing and dreaming about getting married to a prince, Arya prefers shooting arrows and fighting with a sword. Despite always having quarrels with Sansa, she still loves Sansa deeply because she's family. After completing her training as the "Faceless" one, Arya ends up becoming a stealthy assassin who avenges her family, kills the Night King, and saves all of humanity.
Freddy Lim is well-known as a rockstar, a progressive politician, and an advocate for Taiwan's independence. Before diving into politics, Lim is the lead singer of the Taiwanese heavy metal band Chthonic. As a founding member of the young, non-traditional New Power Party (NPP), he brings his rockstar charisma and pro-independence stance into the Legislative Yuan. He has been extremely vocal in human rights issues like LGBT rights and Tibetan independence.
In a shocking move, Lim recently left the NPP to run as an independent in the 2020 legislative election and said he fully supports Tsai Ing-wen in running for re-election.
Beric Dondarrion = James Soong (宋楚瑜)
Nobody knows why the Lord of Light keeps bringing Beric Dondarrion back to life. Even Beric himself has no idea, but he believes he has a purpose. Although he keeps being resurrected, he loses some memories and becomes less of himself with each revival.
A tireless politician at the age of 77, James Soong has run in every presidential election since 2000 (except the 2008 one) but won none of them. He has, however, come very close to winning in the earlier elections. As head of the People First Party with over 5-percent representation in the Legislative Yuan, Soong can automatically declare his 2020 run for presidency without going through the petition process. Yet his popularity has dwindled over the years and he might finally be ready for retirement.
TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)
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