Ma Ying-jeou


Ma Ying-jeou
▪ 2009

born July 13, 1950, Hong Kong

      On March 22, 2008, Ma Ying-jeou, a Harvard-educated former mayor of Taipei, won a landslide victory in Taiwan's presidential election, defeating Frank Hsieh of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by a 58% to 42% margin. Ma was the candidate and former chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, which supported closer relations with Beijing and eventual reunification with China. His triumph followed a similarly resounding win for the KMT in Taiwan's legislative elections on January 12, when the Nationalists secured 81 of the 113 seats in the Legislative Yuan (parliament). The decisive poll results ensured that Ma would take office on May 20 with a solid mandate, and he vowed to restore the island's rapid economic growth of the 1980s and '90s, in part by boosting trade and investment ties with China.

      Ma was born in British-occupied Hong Kong to parents who had fled mainland China after the communist victory in 1949. The family settled in Taiwan in 1951. Ma grew up in Taipei and studied law at National Taiwan University. He won a scholarship to continue his studies in the United States, where he earned a Master of Laws degree (1976) from New York University and a Doctor of Juridical Science degree (1981) from Harvard University. Returning to Taiwan, he entered public service. One of his early assignments was as an English interpreter for then president Chiang Ching-kuo. Ma later served (1984–88) as deputy secretary-general of the KMT.

      In 1991 Ma was elected a representative to Taiwan's National Assembly and appointed vice-chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council. He served as the country's minister of justice from 1993 to 1996. Two years later he scored an impressive political victory by defeating future president Chen Shui-bian in the Taipei mayoral race. Though Ma was reelected in 2002 and was elevated to the KMT chairmanship in 2005, his political career was imperiled after allegations surfaced in late 2006 that he had misused public funds while serving as Taipei's mayor. He was formally indicted on corruption charges in February 2007. Ma resigned the KMT chair but nevertheless forged ahead with his presidential campaign. The Taipei District Court acquitted him of all charges the following August, and the Taiwanese High Court upheld the acquittal in December.

      Among Ma's first priorities as president were to open direct air and shipping links with China and to lift restrictions on Taiwanese investments in the mainland. He also planned to pursue “confidence-building measures” aimed at easing military tensions across the Taiwan Strait. While promising to work toward a formal peace agreement with China, he favoured an approach that emphasized “pragmatism and incrementalism” and conceded that “it will take some time” to thaw frosty bilateral relations.

Sherman Hollar

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▪ president of Taiwan
born July 13, 1950, Hong Kong

      Hong Kong-born politician who was chairman of the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang; 2005–07) and who in 2008 became president of the Republic of China ( Taiwan).

      Ma was born in British-occupied Hong Kong to parents who had fled mainland China after the communist victory in 1949. The family settled in Taiwan in 1951. Ma grew up in Taipei and studied law at National Taiwan University. He won a scholarship to continue his studies in the United States, where he earned a master of laws degree (1976) from New York University and a doctor of juridical science degree (1981) from Harvard University. Returning to Taiwan, he entered public service. One of his early assignments was as an English interpreter for the president, Chiang Ching-kuo, who had succeeded his father, Chiang Kai-shek. Ma later served (1984–88) as deputy secretary-general of the Nationalist Party, which supported closer relations with Beijing and eventual reunification with China.

      In 1991 Ma was elected a representative to Taiwan's National Assembly and was appointed vice-chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council. He served as the country's minister of justice from 1993 to 1996. Two years later he defeated future president Chen Shui-bian in the Taipei mayoral race. Though Ma was reelected in 2002 and was elevated to the KMT chairmanship in 2005, his political career was imperiled after allegations surfaced in late 2006 that he had misused public funds while serving as Taipei's mayor. He was formally indicted on corruption charges in February 2007. Ma resigned his KMT leadership post but nevertheless forged ahead with his presidential campaign. The Taipei District Court acquitted him of all charges the following August, and the Taiwan High Court upheld the acquittal in December.

      On March 22, 2008, Ma won a landslide victory in Taiwan's presidential election, defeating Frank Hsieh of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin. His triumph followed a similarly resounding win for the KMT in Taiwan's legislative elections on January 12, when the Nationalists secured 81 of the 113 seats in the Legislative Yuan (parliament). Ma, who took office on May 20, 2008, vowed to restore the island's rapid economic growth of the 1980s and '90s, in part by boosting trade and investment ties with China. His other priorities included opening direct air and shipping links with China and lifting restrictions on Taiwan's investments in the mainland. He also planned to pursue measures aimed at easing military tensions across the Taiwan Strait. While promising to work toward a formal peace agreement with China, he favoured an incremental approach and conceded that it would take time to thaw frosty bilateral relations.

Sherman Hollar
 

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

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