Freitag, 05. April 2019, 14:00 - 15:30 iCal

How Connective Populism Was Made Online in Taiwan

Prof. Dr. Da-chi Liao (Department of Political Sciences, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, ROC Taiwan): How Connective Populism Was Made Online — A Case Study of the Han Tide in 2018

Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften -Sinologie
Spitalgasse 2, AKH Campus, Hof 2, Eingang 2.3, 1090 Wien


Populism is seeing a global resurgence. Although many historical political movements have had populist elements (eg, communism), this term has often been applied to extreme rightist ideologies, such as Nazism. The populism now on the rise, in contrast, spans ideologies from right to left, and even to groups without rigid ideologies. Much of the difference of modern populism is due to social media. Through online platforms, populists can now directly connect with their followers in ways that are more frank and personal and less scripted than traditional politicians. Some prior researchers have sought to make a distinction between populism and connectivism: the former being exclusive, the latter being inclusive. This current paper proposes that there is, instead, a new, connective, style of populism. This means that populists employ both inclusive and exclusive means when communicating through online platforms: it is a way to bypass the media and get their messages out to the wider public (inclusion of all groups), but those messages often seek to delegitimize the establishment (exclusion of the ruling elites). This paper takes the campaign of Kaohsiung City’s newly elected Mayor, Han Guo-yu, as a case study. Han not only won in a landslide, but also had coat-tails for party candidates even in other cities where he was not on the ballot. Some Taiwanese journalists have termed this island-wide wave as the “Han Tide”. Some have further tried to trace how the Han tide formed and developed online. Indeed, Han’s campaign activities mainly started on the internet, building from there a core of supporters who mobilized online. Although information technology has been used in these journalistic analyses, the focus has been on who the frequent users of key social media sites such as PTT were, and on how they delivered their messages. In contrast, the message contents have not received sufficient consideration. Moreover, theoretical insights and applications have not been journalist concerns. Han’s success online is as much due to his message as to his technology-savvy campaign. Many observers have pointed out that Han’s language and slogans were simple, and were therefore able to be easily grasped and to quickly catch people’s attention. Avoiding a negative campaign, the main slogan was “love and contain.” The inspirational aspect of the message was key to its persuasive power, and is key to understanding what the Han Tide demonstrates about effective social media campaigning. This paper studies the Han Tide from the perspective of connective populism, and employs information technology not only to uncover his technical strategies online, but also to decode the messages hidden in his posts. The paper analyzes Facebook posts in particular.


Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften


Sascha Klotzbücher
Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften