Acclaims, attacks, defenses : Critical discourse analysis of Ma Ying-jeou's 2012 Taiwan presidential debates discourse

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-43
Journal / PublicationDiscourse & Society
Issue number1
Online published16 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


Taiwan, under both domestic socio-political pressures and exogenous diplomatic shocks, underwent a democratization process since the 80s in the last century. Presidential debates became a part of the election benefiting from Taiwan's media liberalization, and are closely related to the Taiwan's democratization process. Ma Ying-jeou's landslide victory in the 2008 Taiwan Presidential Election marked Taiwan's second democratic transfer of power (with the first one taking place in 2000) and started a new era in cross-strait relations. Due to the Kuomintang (KMT) government's performance falling short of the people's expectations during Ma's governance, however, Ma encountered a neck-and-neck challenge in his second term presidential election. This article adopts a Critical Discourse Analysis perspective to investigate Ma Ying-jeou's deliberate manipulation of linguistic strategies including selective modality choices to formulate his acclaims, attacks and defenses in the 2012 Taiwan televised presidential debates. This analysis reveals his employment of negative and positive linguistic choices in addressing his opponents' arguments and casting doubt on his key opponent as well as depicting his leadership and character traits and conveying his high degree of commitment to gain the support of the electorate to offer him an opportunity to continue his stewardship of the country. It examines also how us-you, in addition to us-them polarization, was used as a discursive tool of attack during the debates; and identifies the impact of his discourse on the election outcome in 2012. The investigation of Ma's engagement in televised presidential debates thus offers a snapshot into Taiwan's democratization process.

Research Area(s)

  • Cross-strait relations, democratization, modality, national identity, televised presidential debate