On May 20, 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated president of the Republic of China (ROC). During the presidential election Ma campaigned on a platform to revive Taiwan’s flagging economy and restore the core values of its society, namely that of benevolence, righteousness, diligence, honesty, generosity and industriousness. On Election Day Ma secured a landslide victory winning 58.5 percent of the votes, a total of 7.65 million ballots. This election represented Taiwan’s second peaceful transfer of political power, marking a milestone in the island’s democratic development. Upon taking office Ma immediately worked to carry through on his campaign promises: implementing measures to bolster the economy and initiating talks with mainland China thus paving the way to peace across the Taiwan Strait.
Even though Ma was born in Hong Kong on July 13, 1950, he and his family permanently moved to Taiwan a year later, and have since been living on the island for nearly 60 years. In a family of five children, Ma Ying-jeou is the only male sibling. Ma’s father, Ma Ho-ling, was originally from Hengshan County in Hunan Province on the mainland. From his early years, the elder Ma was already deeply involved in patriotic activities: joining the Youth Army and fighting in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Throughout his lifetime, Ma Ho-ling had dedicated himself to his government and country; he had served in various positions and capacities in the KMT Party and government since winning the war against Japan in 1945 until his death at the age of 85 in 2005. Ma Ying-jeou’s mother, Chin Hou-hsiu, having equally devoted her life to the government, is now a retired civil servant. In 1977, Ma Ying-jeou married Chow Mei-ching. They have two daughters: Ma Wei-chung and Ma Yuan-chung. The smallest addition to their family is an adopted stray dog affectionately called Ma Hsiao-jeou (Little Ma).
Ma Ying-jeou graduated from Taiwan’s foremost academic institution, National Taiwan University, in 1972 receiving a bachelor’s degree from the College of Law. After earning a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from New York University in 1976, Ma received a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree from Harvard Law School in 1981, specializing in law of the sea and international economic law.
Upon returning to the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1981 Ma became the deputy director of the First Bureau of the Presidential Office. In this post, he served as President Chiang Ching-Kuo’s English interpreter and secretary. He was concurrently deputy secretary-general of the KMT’s Central Committee. In 1986, he was assigned by President Chiang the heavy task of researching into the possibility of lifting martial law, relaxing cross-Strait exchange such as permitting residents in Taiwan to visit their mainland relatives, and reforming the parliament.
On October 7, 1986, President Chiang granted an interview with The Washington Post, in which the interviewer was Katherine Graham. During the interview Chiang announced that Taiwan would be lifting martial rule and the ban on forming new political parties. This event marked a momentous turning point in Taiwan’s democratic development. Serving as the president’s English secretary, Ma Ying-jeou was witness to this historic milestone in Chinese civilization.
In 1988, Ma Ying-jeou was appointed Chairman of the Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission of the Executive Yuan. Concurrently, he was also assigned to form a Mainland Affairs Council Taskforce and subsequently became the body’s executive secretary. Three years later, Ma was appointed to the newly established Mainland Affairs Council becoming its first-ever vice chairperson while concurrently serving as a KMT representative at-large in the Second National Assembly.
In 1993, Ma Ying-jeou was appointed the Minister of Justice, in which he launched an aggressive campaign to fight against corruption, drugs, investigated into allegations of vote-buying, cracked down on organized crime and reformed the prison system. Ma’s dedication gained him the respect of his peers and that of society, becoming popularly viewed as a champion for justice. In 1996, Ma was appointed Minister without Portfolio. However, no longer in charge of fighting crime, the following year Ma nevertheless resigned to take responsibility for a series of heinous crimes, notably the kidnap and brutal murder of Pai Hsiao-yan, the daughter of a famous Taiwanese entertainer. He later returned to teach law at the College of Law, National Chengchi University.
Taipei Mayor and KMT Chairman
In 1998, Ma Ying-jeou joined the hotly contested race for Taipei Mayor. This was the first time Ma would run for an elected position and face the scrutiny of public opinion. Campaigning on a platform built on technocratic expertise and a fresh outlook, Ma won the election by 51.13 percent, or 760,000 ballots. Four years later he secured a second term in office, winning 870,000 ballots, or 64.11 percent of the votes. During his eight year tenure as Taipei Mayor, Ma succeeded in transforming Taipei into a world-class cosmopolitan city. Many domestic and international polls have frequently ranked Taipei as among the top quality cities in the region.
In 2005, Ma Ying-jeou ran for the KMT chairmanship. He put forth a roadmap to reform the party’s social and organizational structures and revitalize its image. Ma’s message for change attracted the strong support of young and swing voters, in the end securing him a landslide victory of 73% of the votes.
Special Allowance Fund
On February 13, 2007, Ma was indicted on corruption charges in connection to a special allowance fund that was under his discretionary use during his tenure as Taipei mayor. In response to these charges Ma immediately issued a statement entitled, “Turning Grief and Indignation into Strength,” in which he tendered his resignation as KMT Party chairman and officially announced that he will join the presidential race in 2008.
In the days following this event media polls showed that over 70 percents of respondents believed in Ma’s innocence. In August and December of 2007, both the Taipei District Court and Taiwan High Courts ruled that Ma was innocent of all charges. This decision was subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court on April 24, 2008, marking a definitive victory for Ma Ying-jeou.
Presidential Election Campaign
Upon announcing his presidential candidacy Ma campaigned tirelessly to reach the people; he launched a tour of the entire island trekking on bike to countless towns and villages and living among the people in what the media coined Ma’s “Long Stay.” His sincerity, positive campaigning style and technocratic expertise and experience won him the support of Taiwan’s grassroots. On March 22, 2008, Ma Ying-jeou became the duly elected president of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
On May 20, 2008, Ma Ying-jeou was inaugurated as the 12th-term president of the Republic of China. In his inaugural speech entitled, “Taiwan’s Renaissance,” Ma pledges to restore the political ethics of government, bolster the independence of civil society and build an economically viable environment based on sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation. In addition, creating an open and just society has become the cornerstone of the new Ma administration, where those underprivileged and destitute will receive equal opportunities in society. Finally, Ma Ying-jeou fully intends to honor and execute the articles inscribed in the ROC constitution to their utmost extent possible.
On foreign policy Ma Ying-jeou is committed to deepening Taiwan’s global political and economic integration, as well as strengthening regional cooperation and bilateral ties with neighboring countries, in which he envisions to transform Taiwan into a responsible stakeholder in East Asia. Regarding cross-Strait relations, Ma Ying-jeou has been promoting the policy of “no unification, no independence, and no use of force.” In particular, he advocates the maintenance of the status quo under the framework of the ROC constitution and the resumption of mainland negotiations based on the “92 Consensus.” Ma calls for Taiwan and the mainland to reconcile their differences in cross-Strait relations and in the international community so that both sides can pursue win-win strategies that will contribute to the peaceful development of the region.
Ma Ying-jeou intends to uphold those ideals that best embody the essence of Taiwan’s spirit—benevolence, righteousness, diligence, honesty, generosity and industriousness. The new Ma administration envisions creating a government where the economic and political prosperity of the island and the livelihoods of the people come first and foremost.