Written by Jonathan Sullivan.

During most of the KMT’s one party rule, the media were tightly controlled by the party-state, and played a key role, alongside the education system, of establishing and sustaining the hegemony of nationalist Chinese narratives. This dominance first started to come under pressure from unofficial media in the early democratization era, as charted by Chen 1998. As the KMT bowed to external and internal pressures to allow greater political participation, its relationship with the media also changed as Rawnsley and Rawnsley 1998 demonstrate. One of the most important areas of change was in terms of media ownership. Prior to democratization, the most popular mainstream media were owned by the party, the government or the military. The challenge to this concentrated ownership model brought by social, political and technological pressures is covered in Lee 2000. Persistent questions around ownership have continued well into the democracy era, as Chen 2002shows in the case of cable television.

The nature of media reforms through the democratization era is well covered by Rawnsley 2004, which also covers major reforms initiated by Chen Shui-bian. Chen was motivated in part by the continuing influence of political actors on the media, something that has given rise to widespread concerns about media bias. As Fang and Feng 2004 demonstrate, when it comes to reporting on contested political events, media valence and framing can vary substantially, sometimes to worrying effect. Yet, overall, based on metrics such as audience size, the media landscape is much fairer than it once was. In the case of newspapers, Batto 2004 shows that a market once dominated by KMT aligned publications fragmented and became more balanced after democratization. Ni 2003 is a theoretically driven discourse analytical study of the political and cultural dimensions of ‘othering’ constructions in the Taiwanese press. Hong 1999 provides a thorough account of the development of the Taiwanese media and the transformation of the environment during the democratization era and places Taiwan within the broader globalization of the media.

Political communications have always played an important role in Taiwan’s political campaigns. The historical significance of political communications, particularly during the limited elections of the early democratization period, is well established by Schafferer 2003. The important political impact of cable TV, which allowed opposition activists the ability to bypass KMT gatekeepers in the mainstream media, is well covered in Chan-Olmstead and Chiu 1999. One consequence of the liberalization of the media system was the establishment of organs sympathetic to the DPP, the Liberty Times newspaper and Formosa TV channel. The context behind the establishment of the latter, and the consequences it had for the growth of Taiwanese consciousness, is sympathetically portrayed in Rawnsley M. 2003. A broader analysis of the institutional context of the evolving political communications environment is provided by Rawnsley G. 2003.

The nature of political communications is a product of both the institutional, technological and regulatory context and the adaptive behaviour of parties and political actors themselves. Focusing on the behaviour of political actors, Sullivan and Sapir 2012 analyses their campaign strategies, specifically the decision to ‘go negative’, a concern that permeates much of the literature on political communications in Taiwan. Taiwan’s democracy has become more entrenched and elections and campaigns more routinized at the same time as communications have become more abundant. More and more communicative elements have been built into the campaign environment, including the presidential debates analysed byBenoit et al 2004, and the blogs analysed by Sullivan 2010. Successive governments’ informatization agendas have made Taiwan one of the world’s best performing e-democracies. Lo 2008 discusses both the standards for judging the success of e-government initiatives and assesses governmental websites as a form of political communication. From the political marketing perspective, Zheng 1995 is a pioneering and standard study of party campaign materials between 1989 and 1994.

Jonathan Sullivan is Editor of the China Policy Institute blog.


Batto, Patricia. “Democracy’s Impact on Dailies”. China Perspectives No. 51 (2004): 64-79.

Benoit, William, Wei-Chun Wen and Tzu-hsiang Yu. “A Functional Analysis of 2004 Taiwanese Presidential Debates”.Asian Journal of Communication 17, No. 1 (2007): 24-39.

Chan-Olmstead, Sylvia and Chiu, Peilin. “The Impact of Cable Television on Political Campaigns in Taiwan”. International Communication Gazette 61, No. 6 (1999): 491-509.

Chen, Ping-hung. “Who Owns Cable Television? Media Ownership Concentration in Taiwan”. Journal of Media Economics 15, No. 1 (2002): 41-55.

Chen, Sheue Yun. “State, Media and Democracy in Taiwan”. Media, Culture & Society 20, No. 1 (1998): 11-29.

Fang, Nien-hsuan and Chien-san Feng. “Press Coverage of Post-Presidential Election Turmoil: Not Yet Hate Speech, but Reinforcing Resentments”. Issues and Studies 40 Nos. 3-4 (2004): 354-61.

Hong, Junhao. “Globalization and Change in Taiwan’s Media the Interplay of Political and Economic Forces”. Asian Journal of Communication 9, No. 2 (1999): 39-59.

Lee, Chin-chuan. “State, Capital and Media: The case of Taiwan”. In James Curran and Myung-jin Park (Eds.) De-Westernizing Media Studies. Abingdon: Routledge, 2000: 110-123.

Lo, Jin羅晉. 邁向電子化民主新階段?政府網站民主化指標建立與評估調查, Maixiang dianzihua minzhu xinjieduan? Zhengfu wangzhan minzhuhua zhibiao jianli yu pinggu diaocha. 東吳政治學報 Dongwu Zhengzhi Xuebao, 26, No.1 (2008): 143-198.

Ni, Yanyuan 倪炎元. 再現的政治: 台灣報紙媒體對“他者”建構的論述分析 Zaixian de zhengzhi: Taiwan baozhi meiti dui ‘tazhe’ jiangou de lunshu fenxi. 韋伯文化國際出版有限公司Taibei: Weibo wenhua guoji chuban, 2003.

Gary Rawnsley. “Treading a Fine Line: Democratisation and the Media in Taiwan”. Parliamentary Affairs 57, No. 1 (2004): 209-22.

Rawnsley, Gary. “An Institutional Approach to Election Campaigning in Taiwan”. Journal of Contemporary China 12, No. 37 (2003): 765-79.

Rawnsley, Ming-yeh T. “Communications of Identities in Taiwan: From the 2-28 Incident to FTV”. In Gary Rawnsley and Ming-yeh T. Rawnsley (Eds.) Political Communications in Greater China: Construction and Reflection of Identity. Abingdon: Routledge, 2003, 147-165.

Rawnsley, Gary and Ming‐Yeh T. Rawnsley. “Regime Transition and the Media in Taiwan”. Democratization 5, No. 2 (1998): 106-124.

Schafferer, Christian. The Power of the Ballot Box: Political Development and Election Campaigning in Taiwan.  Lanham MD: Lexington Books, 2003.

Sullivan, Jonathan. “Legislators’ Blogs in Taiwan”. Parliamentary Affairs 63, No. 3 (2010): 471-85.

Sullivan, Jonathan and Eliyahu V. Sapir. “Nasty or Nice? Explaining Positive and Negative Campaigning in Taiwan”. The China Journal No. 67 (2012): 149-68.

Zheng, Zilong鄭自隆. 競選廣告: 理論, 策略 研究案例. Jingxuan guanggao: Lilun, celue, yanjiu anli.墨文堂文化 Taipei: Mowentang, 1995

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